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Last updated: 29 April 2024

Who is this document for?

The Autism and Homelessness Toolkit is designed for homelessness service providers who engage with and support autistic individuals experiencing homelessness. It is particularly valuable for those seeking to enhance their understanding and effectiveness in working with autistic individuals.

Why is it relevant?

This resource was initially developed by Dr Alasdair Churchard as a direct response to research findings which indicated a high prevalence of autistic individuals within homelessness settings. This Toolkit was subsequently updated by Dr Georgia Lockwood Estrin, funded by Autistica, based on valuable feedback and advice from stakeholders, including insights from autistic individuals who have experienced homelessness.

The Toolkit aims to fill a critical knowledge gap, aligning with recent research and societal understanding of autism. Given the unique challenges faced by autistic individuals in navigating homelessness, this document provides essential information and practical guidance to improve support within homelessness services.

What are the key takeaways?

  • Understanding Autism: Autism is not a linear spectrum but a 'spiky profile,' indicating that autistic individuals possess unique strengths and weaknesses. Recognising this is crucial for effective and person-centred support.
  • Co-occurring Conditions: Autistic individuals experiencing homelessness may present with complex needs due to the intersection of homelessness, mental health needs, and other co-occurring conditions. Being aware of these potential co-occurring conditions is crucial for providing appropriate support and services tailored to their unique circumstances.
  • Autistic Women: Autism in women often presents differently from men, challenging prevalent stereotypes. Acknowledging and understanding these differences are critical for accurate identification and support, ensuring services are accessible and effective for autistic women.
  • Camouflaging: Camouflaging is a coping strategy where autistic individuals, especially women, conceal their autistic traits. This adaptive technique can obscure the need for support, highlighting the importance of awareness, and accommodating environments to ensure all individuals receive the help they require.
  • Best Practices in Support: Supporting autistic individuals requires tailored communication strategies, adjustments in service delivery, and environmental accommodations. Emphasising the importance of routine and predictability can also significantly enhance the support provided, aligning with the unique needs of autistic individuals. Importantly, understand the individual you are working with and follow their lead.