Autism Anglia working to ensure healthcare available to neurodiverse community in North East Essex

Many with neurodivergent conditions have struggled with the vaccination effort against COVID-19. Whether it’s a fear of needles, anxiousness, or a fear of the unknown, it is vitally important that they are able to access the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters in a safe and comfortable environment should they wish to.

Kate Hancock chief executive for Autism Anglia said:

“The need was recognised by our Advocacy team at Autism Anglia as many of their service users were extremely nervous about their vaccinations and recognised that the environment and experience would need adjusting for neurodivergent adults and children.”

“We’re pleased that the service is having such a positive impact with the young autistic people and their families in North East Essex. The demand for our service is unprecedented and due to the cost of living crisis, is only increasing.”

Starting in January this year, the charity has run 4 vaccination clinics to date.

Last month, Autism Anglia’s North-East Essex Advocacy Service (NEEAS), The NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB) and Essex Partnership University (EPUT), have delivered more vaccines than ever before with one family travelling 2 hours each way just to attend.

The vaccines are delivered by the same experienced staff each time as to make people with autism and other neurodiverse conditions feel as comfortable and safe as possible. Autism Anglia staff were also present with sensory items around them to create a relaxed and calm environment.

The vaccination days are open to adults and children and hosted in Colchester. These events work because all the staff involved have experience with autism and understand that this can be a stressful environment, however the clinics are open to everyone who is neurodiverse. There are always extra vaccines available and there are plans to run more in January 2023.

Annie Sands, manager of Autism Anglia’s Advocacy Service said:

“On the day, staff are patient and respectful to all who arrive, taking extra time to go on walks and talk to nervous patients - some people even stayed behind after their vaccinations just to relax.

“It was important for us to be completely open and honest with people getting vaccinated – we weren’t going to sit there and say it won’t hurt at all because the truth is it might! With all our combined experience with autism, we felt this was the best approach and it worked effectively as October was our busiest session to date.

“We allowed some people to observe what happens before they receive their vaccination as they were nervous and respected the right of people to back out of the vaccine should they wish. It was a zero-pressure environment which was accessible for as many people as possible.

“We have had contact from NHS trusts all over England to get our help in setting these vaccination clinics up which shows just how successful they’ve been and the feedback has been wonderful to hear. People from outside of Colchester even came to us as they’d heard about what we were doing and struggled to get appointments elsewhere and had previously struggled to find the extra care we were providing“

Launched in October 21, Autism Anglia’s North East Essex Advocacy Service is funded by North East Essex CCG and forms part of their Early Intervention and Family Offer  - supporting young people and families with neurodevelopmental conditions.

The Early Intervention and Family Offer provides services to children, young people and families to support the management of neurodevelopmental conditions in young people aged 0-25.

To find out more about you can visit the charity’s website or email [email protected]