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People with autism have the same health care needs as people without disabilities and should benefit from the same health care and disease prevention activities within the general health facilities.

Medical problems can worsen the behaviour of people with autism, mainly of those who are not able to communicate pain or other feelings. Therefore, ensuring a careful follow-up of their general health conditions is crucial in order to avoid more suffering, deterioration of health conditions and unsuitable (and needless) intervention.

It is important that health care providers and policy makers acknowledge that many people with autism have special needs which may require modification of standard health care practices and service models in order to cope with the peculiar difficulties of persons with ASD.  Detecting warning signs and treating health problems in people with autism can be difficult, because of the social and communication impairments, the frequently associated sensory abnormalities, the adaptive difficulties, the challenging behaviours, as well as fear and anxiety that physical assessment, diagnostic imaging, and a variety of other interventions  may induce in people with autism. Reasonable adjustments of the health care and  individual skilled support during hospitalisation or day care should be provided.

In addition, people with autism may have unique health care needs that relate to other frequently associated conditions (eg, Angelman syndrome, fragile X syndrome, tuberous sclerosis, epilepsy). Health-care systems can play a significant role in fostering the best development of individual potential and in improving the quality of life of people with and their families by acting immediately on parental concerns, monitoring behaviour and development, referring promptly for a comprehensive evaluation, searching for etiologic and comorbid conditions, expediting enrolment and implementation of appropriate intervention strategies, managing medical issues, and coordinating care among various service delivery systems.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, people with autism have the right to adapted health care.

COVID-19 pandemic and autism

Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption across the globe and has had a big impact on the lives of autistic people as they face disruption in their routine, changes to their support services, and are faced with new challenges arising from the socio-economic impact of the crisis.

More information

Autism-Europe’s resources

  • Project: TRASE– Training in Sexual Education for People with Disabilities (2015-2017)
  • Project: SEAD – Sex education for people with learning disabilities (2012- 2015)