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Spotlight On: Autistica


Part of WPP Health Practice’s Patient Partnership Programme organised by the chief medical office explores the journey of Autism

Spotlight On: Autistica

As part of WPP’s work with patients organised by the chief medical office at WPP Health Practice, it was delighted to welcome the team at Autistica to hear about their valuable work.

Autistica is the UK’s national autism research charity. The WPP Health Practice heard from James Cusack, the CEO for Autistica and the first openly autistic charity CEO.


What is autism?

Autism is an umbrella term to describe people who think and process the world differently, in relation to social aspects, non-social aspects and sensory sensitivities. Roughly 1 in 100 people are autistic, that is 700,000 people in the UK!

What is life like for people with autism?

Life for each autistic person varies greatly. Some autistic people can and do thrive while others need a lot of high-quality support. 

What is generally true for all autistic people is that they are often denied rights because they are different, and that is why autism is a human rights issue. Autistic people should have a right to have access to basic human rights, such as mental health support, employment, healthcare, support and therapy, and need to be better represented, accepted, understood or empowered. Yet, a substantial number of autistic people experience mental health problems, and of all major groups of disabled people in the UK, autistic people are most likely to be unemployed and underemployed.

What is Autistica’s goal?

Autistica invest in research to ensure that people with autism and their families can live long, happy, healthy lives. Unlike for other medical conditions, Autistica are not looking to ‘cure’ autism, but to address the inequalities that autistic people face. Those with autism face a lower quality of life, more health issues and a lower life expectancy.

How are Autistica making a difference?

Autistica is the UK’s autism research charity. They want all autistic people to live a long, happy, healthy life, by ensuring they have a right to the evidence-based support, sustainable employment and a world that enables them. They do that by:

  • Funding, shaping and growing research across the UK

  • Developing new solutions

  • Campaigning for better service and shaping national policy

  • Shaping evidence-based tools, resources and information

What are Autistica’s greatest achievements?

Autistica is a relatively young charity and was founded in 2004 by the pioneering entrepreneur Dame Stephanie Shirley. Since then, they are proud to have:

  • Invested £3.5 million in 37 research studies in five years

  • Established the UK’s autism research network of 16,000 community members, to help them and their partners do bigger and better research

  • Developed the first ever autism-specific health check for autistic adults, to be implemented in GP surgeries

  • Funded research which has helped to understand the early signs of autism

  • Developed an evidence-based app to help autistic adults understand and self-manage anxiety (5,000+ downloads)

  • Founded the Embracing Complexity coalition of 55 neurodevelopmental and mental health charities, to improve outcomes for people with multiple conditions

Autistica has a very neurodiverse team. How is their workplace environment adapted for this?

The recruitment process was adapted to be accessible to people with autism (questions provided beforehand, internships offered based on CVs), but all who succeeded were chosen because they were best for the job. Knowing about everyone’s condition means that Autistica can ask about reasonable adjustments that people need to be able to work. An open and honest environment means that anyone in the team can communicate both how they would like to work and interact within the team, as well as how the physical workspace can be adapted to account for their needs, for example to reduce sensory distractions.

Find out more about Autistica’s important work by following them on Twitter (@Autistica), FaceBook and LinkedIn and and of course by following more news on our patient engagement programme on @WPPHealth

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Categories: Healthcare and Wellness, Medical Research

VMLY&Rx, Tue, 06 Oct 2020 09:40:44 GMT