Photo: Cross-Party Autism Group in Wales, 2016 

The recent Cross Party Autism Group gave decision-makers the chance to hear about the progress made in Wales this year as well as the concerns of autistic people, their parents, carers and professionals, moving into 2017.

The National Assembly for Wales’ Cross Party Autism Group's last meeting of 2016 proved to be a great success, with members utilising their opportunity to raise questions and concerns with local and national decision-makers.

More than 40 autistic adults, their parents, carers and professionals were joined by politicians, representing areas across Wales, to hear from a fantastic range of speakers presenting on a number of topical issues.

Meleri Thomas, of NAS Cymru, updated the group on the recent publication of the Welsh Government’s Autism Strategy. Meleri welcomed the ambitions of the strategy, however members did have many questions around such issues as adult diagnosis pathways and how the strategy would be monitored. The Welsh Government Minister responsible will herself be at the next meeting where it is hoped many of these concerns can be addressed.

The group then heard from Professor Alka Ahuja, of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, who has, in close partnership with a range of stakeholders, created the About Me app. The app is designed to give the user a digital 'autism passport' to help improve the communication between autistic people and their families and the professionals who support them.

Michael Imperato, a solicitor from Cardiff, discussed autistic learners in further education. The length of placements autistic learners are entitled to in a further education institution was one specific area of concern raised and the chair of the group, Mark Isherwood AM, resolved to write to the appropriate minister on behalf of the group for clarity.

Photo: Presentation to the Cross-Party Autism Group in Wales, 2016

There were also updates from two other Wales-based groups that support autistic people and their families. Willow Holloway of the Autistic Women's Empowerment Project spoke passionately about autistic girls and women, who are all too often left undiagnosed, misdiagnosed and without appropriate support. Nadine Honeybone of The Autism Directory then discussed an exciting new project that will support people to access autism-friendly services in their local area.

Samuel Stone of NAS Cymru, who are secretariat to the group, said:

"This was yet another incredibly useful meeting of the Cross-Party Autism Group, which since 2002 has had a key role in bringing autistic people, their families, friends and carers together with professionals and Assembly Members, to discuss services and support available in Wales.

"Our thanks go to all who came along and in particular to those who brought such useful contributions to the group. There are number of actions we are currently following up and look forward to being able to update the group at our next meeting in February."

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The Cross-Party Autism Group Chair is Mark Isherwood AM. The Group Officers, Hefin David AM, Dai Lloyd AM and Jayne Bryant AM.

This meeting was also attended by Assembly Members David Rees, Mike Hedges, Angela Burns, Andrew RT Davies as well as representatives from the offices of Nathan Gill, Simon Thomas and Suzy Davies.