Use the 'next' button to view the Autism Strategy page by page.

The National Strategy provides a good overview of autism and how it impacts on people in different ways – the key thing to remember is that the autistic experience is widely different. 

It is also important to recognise that while autism is not an intellectual disability, around 4 in 10 autistic people have an Intellectual Disability (Autistica research quoted in the National Strategy, page 8).  Service provision needs to recognise and adapt to meet the individual needs of each autistic person.

The general autism prevalence in the UK population is around 1% of the population – there is an estimated population of around 700,000 autistic children and adults across the UK (National Strategy, page 8).  Mental health services should experience a higher proportion of autistic people accessing services than this prevalence might indicate.  Research by Autistica indicates that more than 7 in 10 autistic people have a mental health problem.   7 in 10 autistic children have a mental health condition and 4 in 10 autistic children have more than 1 mental health condition.

For each local area where we provide services, we work to understand the local population by using the local Joint Strategic Needs Assessment which collates information from the local Council, NHS and other partners.  Public Health England also provide some regional analysis which we can use to consider as well.  

As our services cover a wide geography, we have pulled together the key trends related to autism which these local profiles highlight below.  For further information for your local area, please see our References section at the end of this Strategy which can direct you to local information sources via the internet.    

About everyone

Although about 1% of the population is estimated to be autistic, the number of autistic people accessing local autism health services is much lower. 

This indicates that some people who may need help and support are not accessing services for help and support. Further analysis around the barriers to accessing support is needed.

About autistic children and young people



The estimated prevalence of autism in children is rising fast. 

Across Cheshire and Merseyside, Public Health England reported a 177% increase in prevalence between data from 2016 and data from 2020.  

Part of this increase may be due to adjustments made by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on population projections.

This is important because more children and families are likely to need help and support.

Community and inpatient services need to have the knowledge, skills and capacity to identify and meet their needs

Recruitment, retention and training of specialist staff in autism should be considered. At present, there is a shortage of specialist autism skills across the system.

More autistic children are recorded as attending secondary schools and specialist schools.

There is a greater need for teachers and educational support staff to be trained to recognise autistic traits and to support autistic children.

Intellectual Disability and / or Autism represent a substantial proportion of Children in Need who have a disability

Children in Need are entitled to additional support from health, social care and education to improve, safeguard and promote welfare.

People involved in the care of Children in Need require skills to support autistic children.

About autistic adults

More adults are coming forward for autism diagnosis, often with a history of accessing mental health services. 

There are now more older autistic people including those with an Intellectual Disability and Autism.  This may have an impact on the prevalence of earlier onset dementia and frailty in this group.

There will be a greater need to develop skills around autism in health and social care organisations who provide care for adults and older people, especially as adults may face unique challenges in receiving an autism diagnosis and will need appropriate, tailored support. 

Quality of Service provision and delivery

Children and adults often experience long waits to access autism diagnosis.

This indicates that people and their families are not getting timely help and support.

Autistic people experiencing mental health issues sometimes have difficulty accessing generic mental health care and treatment.

This indicates that autism can sometimes be a barrier to accessing mental health care. 

We can improve the experience of people accessing our services by providing reasonable adjustments to support their needs.

Staff working in generic mental health care should have the skills and confidence to be able to see and treat most autistic people.

Some autistic young adults struggle to adapt to changed routines when they leave school/ college. This can result in mental health issues, and in some cases hospital admission.

Poor mental health, crisis and hospital admission could be avoided if individuals, families and carers were able to better anticipate and meet the needs of young adults as their routines change.  

We can improve the environment in which we see and treat people to help support those who experience sensory overload.

Our hospital outpatient and inpatient units have not all been designed to be adaptable for people with sensory needs (adjustable heat, light, and sound in particular).

Waiting room areas, and inpatient wards can be distressing environments for autistic people because of these factors. These can have direct impact on people’s ability to engage with care and treatment.


We are an employer of autistic people as well as a provider of services for autistic people.

We need to listen to our autistic staff about their experiences in terms of pre-employment, induction and employment. Working with our autistic staff, we must address any barriers to employment/ workplace experience.

Workforce development

Autistic people access and can be employed by all our services, so we need to create and maintain an autism-friendly culture across our organisation.

All our staff need to have an awareness of autism that is appropriate to their role. 


Autistic people with more complex needs require skilled experts to lead and support their care, both in hospital and in the community.

We need to have staff experts in the care and treatment of autistic people in every service area.

Working with partners/ stakeholders

We are a specialist provider of autism services and have local and regional expertise in this area.

Our autism expertise can be used to support the wider community to enable better lives for autistic people.