Friday, 18 March 2011

Mark Reckless MP Supports Charter To Improve Mental Health Services For Children With Autism

Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood and Hollie Ryan, a National Autistic Society (NAS) Young Campaigner from Chatham, both attended the parliamentary launch of the NAS’s You Need To Know charter, which aims to improve the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) system. Currently only a third of parents of children with autism believe CAMHS has improved the mental health of their child.

At the event, held in Parliament on 10th March, Hollie along with the rest of the Young Campaigners Group, who all have autism and have all used CAMHS services, held a special screening of their film ‘Open Your Mind’, which they created about their experiences. They also unveiled their 12 point charter to improve the system for other children with autism, that included the following:

- The environment should… not have ticking clocks – Many people with autism are extremely sensitive to sights, smells, noises or sensations. Ticking clocks, whirling fans and fluorescent light bulbs can be incredibly distracting and distressing for people with autism

- CAMHS professionals should… understand autism and that everyone is different - “You’re not ‘autistic’, you’re on the ‘autistic spectrum’ … think of it like a number line … not a hundred different numbers, like a thousand different numbers”

- CAMHS should work with education – “My secondary school at the moment is everything I might possibly need… I don’t have to leave school to go to all these appointments. I don’t have to get to know loads of difference professionals. I can just go to one place and it’s there whenever I need it.”

Mark Reckless MP says, “It was a privilege to meet these intelligent and talented teenagers from the Young Campaigners Group. They’ve worked extremely hard and overcome many difficulties to be able to produce their charter and film. Many of the points they have put forward are simple to put into practice, and some require little or no cost, and I will campaign locally to help our local CAMHS services to take these ideas on board”.

Hollie Ryan, 15, Young Campaigner, says, “Having had a bad experience with CAMHS, I felt very strongly about improving the service, as I wouldn’t want any other young people to go through what I did. For me, one of the most important things is that the CAMHS professionals should understand that everyone is different, and different things work for different people. On many occasions it has been assumed that I should act in a certain way because I have Asperger syndrome, when really I am totally different to every other young person, because I am me. A little understanding goes a very long way”.

Mark Lever, chief executive, NAS, says, “The work of the Young Campaigners Group is so vital in helping to turn things around for children and young people with autism and mental health problems. With the right support at the right time, children with autism can have good mental health just as anyone else can – and the Young Campaigners Group aim to make this a reality.”

To help the Young Campaigners with their cause, the NAS is calling on supporters to ask their local authority to pledge to use the charter to improve support from CAMHS for children with autism in their area. You can email those who are responsible for CAMHS in your local area by visiting the following page on our website

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