NAS Department for Education (DfE) Safeguarding Project Brief Background Children1 with disabilities are at higher risk of experiencing abuse and neglect than non-disabled children, but they are less likely to be subject to child protection plans.2 Research from the US indicates higher prevalent rates amongst children with autism than those without disabilities.3 An NAS survey showed4: Less than 35% of professionals felt they had sufficient knowledge about autism as it relates to safeguarding 91% agreed there was a need for improved training in their profession to safeguard children with autism Children with autism can have limited speech and struggle to communicate emotions and needs, making it difficult for professionals to identify signs of abuse and neglect. Conversely, the NAS has been contacted by distressed parents who have felt their child’s autistic behaviour has been mistaken for indicators of abuse.5 In the absence of autism-specific guidance and training, professionals are illequipped to support children with autism and to differentiate between the disability and indicators of harm. The Project The National Autistic Society is leading a consortium with Tender Education and Arts, Ambitious about Autism and the Autism Education Trust, to improve safeguarding outcomes for children and young people with autism. The project will target social workers, Local Safeguarding Children Boards, health and education professionals to enable early interventions in abuse and neglect. The NAS will collect and use evidence of best practice from across England to produce and pilot a training programme and guidance for safeguarding children with autism. The project will engage professionals, families and children with autism in identifying challenges and solutions. We will also use an innovative drama-based approach that will empower families to speak to professionals as equals. Main outputs of the two year project will be to: Produce and distribute safeguarding guidance booklets for safeguarding professionals Develop an interactive online training module (including short film content) Please note that ‘children’ and ‘young people’ will be used interchangeably throughout this document to refer to children and young people up to the age of 18. 2 Ofsted (2012), Protecting disabled children: thematic inspection. 3 Mandell, D.S. et al (2005), ‘The prevalence and correlates of abuse among children with autism served in comprehensive community-based mental health setting’, Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol 29, pp. 1359–1372 4 The NAS conducted a survey in Autumn 2012 with 110 professionals: 1 5 Dr J Gould, ‘Labelling parents: a substitute for diagnosing children?’ Communication, 1998 Deliver dissemination conference The project aims to increase the quality of safeguarding services across England, leading to early interventions to prevent the abuse and neglect of children with autism.