Sometimes referred to as a spectrum, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), autism is a lifelong condition and although not a learning disability, roughly half of all autistic people may also have a learning disability.
ASD causes problems with social interaction, communication with others, and affects how people experience the world around them.
Any one of these would make the ongoing coronavirus pandemic especially tough for autistic people.
Dr Dave Baker, GP and South West Lincolnshire Locality Lead, NHS Lincolnshire CCG, said: “Autism affects different people in different ways in different environments, and in the ever evolving situation of the coronavirus pandemic it can be difficult for us all to understand, but particularly for people with autism, as well as their families
“In the context of the ongoing pandemic and the vaccine rollout, we know that it is particularly important that we provide people with autism, and those with learning disabilities, the appropriate support, especially when encouraging them to come forwards for their vaccination.”
The NHS has invited everyone on the GP Learning Disability Register to have their covid vaccination as part of priority group 6, and there is an increasingly wide range of supporting materials to help address the concerns faced by people who live with learning disabilities and autism, as well as severe mental illnesses, including a film produced by NHS England and NHS Improvement to provide accessible information for people about what a vaccine is, how it’s made and how to decide whether to get vaccinated, and another produced by Skills for People and Learning Disability England.
Dr Baker added: “One of the best films I have seen so far is one made by a woman called Joanne, who has Down’s Syndrome, and was so impressed by her experience of getting the covid vaccination that she decided to help others by making her own vide.
“There are also a series of easy read leaflets that have been produced by Public Health England about the covid vaccination and what to expect after having it.
“Our message to anyone with autism or a learning disability is to book in for a vaccination as soon as possible if they haven’t already done so.
“You can go to your local vaccination site run by your local GP practice, or one of the bigger vaccination sites.
“If you are not sure please speak to your GP and they will be able to help.”