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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 19:12 GMT
New autism strategy is welcomed
Joe Powell
Joe Powell, who has autism, wants politicians to understand needs
The National Autistic Society in Wales (NAS Cymru) has backed a draft autism strategy but says more cash and clear targets are needed to make it work.

Autism affects the ability to understand and communicate, interact socially with others and to think and behave flexibly.

Around 20,000 people in Wales are said to have the disability.

The assembly government plan includes an extra 1.7m for better autism services for children and young people.

Joe Powell, from Newport, has Asperger syndrome - a form of autism - which means he struggles in social situations and worries about other people's comments, gestures and intentions.

Yet he has written a book, made a DVD and given speeches at a number of events.

He believes the autism strategy is a chance for anyone affected by the disability to let politicians know their needs.

He said: "As a person with Asperger syndrome, I struggle to have my views and requirements heard."

'Key issues'

He urged people to contact NAS Cymru to comment on the draft strategy - a view supported by the society itself.

The strategy proposes making various agencies dealing with autism work more closely together.

It would also identify how many people have autism and predict how many would need help in the future.

NAS Cymru supports the plan but has doubts about how key elements of the strategy would work in practice.

National director Chris Peach said: "It is difficult to see how local agencies will be enabled to implement the plan without additional money and statutory power.

"NAS Cymru is concerned that there are no specific actions around adult services and that the sections on key issues such as mental health and family support, including post-diagnostic support short schemes, do not fully address the issues that we know families face."

The assembly government is consulting on its plans over the next four months.

Health and Social Services Minister Brian Gibbons said that while there were different groups of people with autism, all shared the same difficulties.

He said: ""The nature and severity of its impact on a person's life can vary significantly, and because of the nature of autism, people fall into gaps between services.

"It is therefore important that all professionals and agencies work together to ensure their needs are properly assessed and addressed."

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