Within this national programme, training is available for staff from all age inpatient mental health hospitals; forensic psychiatric care; secure welfare, youth justice and special residential schools and colleges; and all age community settings, including CAMHs.

Each course runs over four days and is delivered completely online. Training cohorts have a maximum of 18 delegates to optimise each delegate’s experience and learning.

Understand more about the training and how it is delivered

Our approach 

Our programme offers a humanising approach, differentiating it from many established or traditional courses where the major focus is on the clinical features of autism and how these are regarded and responded to. 

Our training seeks to inform practice through an examination of perceptions of autism. It offers insights and practical strategies drawn from autistic and trauma-informed experiences, whilst acknowledging the challenges faced by autistic people and staff working across different settings. 

Our initial training is delivered as part of a continuous reflective practice intervention, and is supported by the establishment of communities of practice. 

“It felt like a safe space where I could admit to also having some biases/negative associations with people who have autism, despite working in an autism service and being keen to learn how to support people.” 

Training participant 


Training format

Our four day online courses will be offered to trainers who work in settings across the seven NHS regions. Content covers Tiers 1-3 of the Core Capabilities Framework for Supporting Autistic People, adapted to the different mental health settings. 

Training is delivered to cohorts of up to 18 delegates. Our experience shows that small cohort sizes have a positive effect on delegates’ experiences and learning, increasing the impact of the training. Our trainers are able to create safe learning spaces and meaningfully engage with all delegates. This enables open, respectful discussions and ensures attendees feel able to share vulnerabilities and challenges from their daily practice. 

Prior to starting the course, delegates are asked to complete a training needs assessment, to ensure each course best meets the needs of individual delegates. 

Our training methods and formats will include: 

  • Engaging materials via an online hub including short vignettes, personal accounts and short films which introduce sensitive topics, stimulating debate and creating memorable learning moments. 
  • Evidence-based training and resources, combining research evidence, clinical practice and lived experience. 
  • Skills development and learning consolidation through creative, reflective portfolios, group presentations and intimate, reflective discussions. 
  • Digital assessment tools and certification. 

Post-training, all attendees will be supported by our Lead Trainers, communities of practice and experts by experience, to deliver and embed our approach with colleagues in their own settings. 

“It has been really good training so far, I am actually sad about the training coming to an end. It has been useful to think about stereotypes, adaptations, narratives and frameworks (SPELL). It has also been helpful that these have been mentioned on a few occasions because it means you are consolidating learning as opposed to getting more and more information every day. Practicing facilitating slides we have already seen helped as it boosted confidence in our knowledge of the topic.” 

Training participant 


Training methodology and curriculum 

Appropriate training, co-designed and co-delivered with autistic people, is essential so that autistic children, young people and adults receive appropriate, person-centred care. The inclusion of the autistic voice in the recovery plan facilitates attuning with the individual’s needs, perspectives and preferences. 

Building on the delivery of our pilot training within adult inpatient settings, our curriculum will continue to provide a unique overview of best practice based on emerging evidence and participation of those with lived experience. 

Co-production is a key principle of our approach, signifying mutual respect and appreciation of individual skills and lived experience. Every slide of our training material, the reflection exercises and supporting video library, will be co-created with lived experience experts, many of whom are also scientific directors, researchers and academics in autistic mental health. This will ensure that all delegates have an opportunity to engage with and amplify autistic narratives, reframing negative or limiting perceptions of the autistic community. 

Our experience-sensitive theoretical framework draws together the eight dimensions of human experience key to the autistic person’s wellbeing (insiderness, agency, uniqueness, sense making, personal journey, sense of place, embodiment and togetherness). It places the person at the centre of their own ‘lifeworld’ to acknowledge and validate them as the expert of their experiences. This approach shifts our understanding of wellbeing away from a deficit-focused, medical narrative and towards meaningful engagement with an individuals’ troubles and joys. Our training model will go beyond knowledge transfer to offer concrete examples and opportunities to develop good practice, share vulnerabilities and reframe how staff understand the impact of their behaviour and how they respond to autistic people. 

Developing empathy for the experience of others is a key objective of our training. We will equip trainees with an understanding of how their own beliefs, values and behaviour impact the people they are working with. 


All attendees across all settings will: 

  • Gain an understanding of barriers experienced by autistic people in community and hospital environments, potential difficulties they face during transitions between settings, and the risks of institutionalisation for autistic individuals. 
  • Find examples of existing good practice and innovative approaches of working with, rather than on or for, autistic individuals. 
  • Gain expertise, skills and practical strategies to meet the needs of autistic people and their families, as members of multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams, and as wider teams of staff for a whole of system approach. 
  • Reduce restrictive practice, model collaborative and person-centred values and promote a positive narrative about neurodiversity. 

Evaluation of the training 

As part of our ongoing evaluation trainees will be asked to provide feedback at the end of each training day. This evaluation will be completed using Pod, a tool developed by Anna Freud.   

By using Pod we will ensure Trainers have access to participant’s feedback straight away and can use this to inform training delivery on subsequent days.   

Understand more about Pod  

Pod is an online data collection tool, designed to gather outcomes and feedback from individuals, in a range of settings from clinical interventions, research projects through to training programmes.    

Pod can be accessed from any device with access to the internet, allowing data to be collected efficiently and effectively, calculating scores in real time and giving instant access to the results to those who need to see them


Learning outcomes 

We expect trainees will improve their understanding and skills in the following areas, including tier three competencies, of capability 13, of the Core Capabilities Framework: 

  • Evolving concepts in understanding the autistic mind (communication, feelings, strengths and needs). 
  • Specific considerations for learning disabilities or co-occurring syndromes. 
  • The importance of the sensory environment/sensory autonomy, focused/intense interests, predictability/routines and repetitive behaviours. 
  • The role of alexithymia. 
  • Adaptations in cognitive and behavioural manuals for anxiety and depression. 
  • Autistic physical and mental health (epilepsy, hypermobility, living skills, sleep and physical activity, low mood, stress/anxiety, eating disorders, burn-out, masking, trauma, self-harm, and suicidality). 
  • Stigma and otherness of autistic people in their local communities and in the services. 
  • Supporting inclusion of marginalised groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, non-binary, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA+) communities, and minoritised ethnic groups. 
  • Advances gaps in current practice including barriers to accessing help, transition gaps, clinical/environmental adaptations that help, and duty of care. 
  • Awareness of, and mitigation against, negative aspects of institutionalisation and exclusion. 
  • Supporting interaction with parents, carers, siblings and friends in the community. 
  • Understanding and applying collaborative, accountable and evidence-based practice, valuing autistic individuals’ rights. 
  • Personalisation and least restrictive practices - from legislation to practice. 
  • Peer mentoring and clinical supervision in creating and sustaining cultural change in the service. 
  • Autistic people and the criminal justice system - as victims, witnesses and offenders. 
  • Impact of lockdown and the pandemic. 

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