Autistic pensioners 'missing out on care'

MANY elderly people with autism in Scotland could be missing out on the care and support they need to cope with their condition and old age, campaigners have warned.

While most people associate autism with children and young people who need extra educational support, charity Scottish Autism said it was a life-long disorder which required ongoing care.

Many people with autism could be left unable to cope when the parents who looked after them died, facing further difficulties as they grow older themselves.

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Allan Somerville, Scottish Autism chief executive, said Scotland's autism strategy needed to address care and support for people of all ages.

Autism - which covers a wide spectrum of ability and disability and causes problems communicating and interacting with others - is believed to affect about 50,000 people in Scotland.

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But Mr Somerville said there was no register of where these people were and his charity only provided services for about 500 of them.

He welcomed 10 million Scottish Government funding to support research and treatment of the condition, but said there was a need to make sure people who needed help were not lost in the gaps between education, social care and mental health services.

"Old age is another issue because it is only 40 years since autism was officially recognised as a condition," he said. "So the earliest people who were diagnosed are now in their 50s and 60s. They are now starting to encounter problems of autism combined with geriatric problems."

Mr Somerville said there were no figures to show how many older people were living with autism, but there were suspicions many could be undiagnosed or unrecognised.

Charity Age Scotland agreed that older people with autism needed extra support. But the spokesman said that older people caring for relatives with autism also needed help.