Autism and learning disabilities

Autism and/or a learning disability are not mental health conditions, however the strategies sit within the Minister for Mental Health’s portfolio. Around 32.7% of people with a learning disability also have a diagnosis of autism.

Good health is vital to all of us, as is access to good quality care. However people with learning disabilities can experience substantial health inequalities. Over 95% have at least one additional health problem, and multiple co-occurring physical and mental health problems are typical. 

We recognise and value the 0.5% of the population who live with a learning disability in Scotland and contribute to our communities and to our country. 

We have been working on sustaining and introducing additional ways to help autistic people and people with a learning/intellectual disability as part of our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. This work is detailed in our learning/intellectual disability and autism: towards transformation plan published in March 2021.

We published our learning disability strategy - The Keys to Life in March 2019. This includes our implementation framework and priorities from 2019 to 2021.

Estimates suggest that 1.035% of people in Scotland are autistic. We published the Scottish Strategy for Autism in March 2018. This sets out our priorities and actions for 2018 to 2021.  

We work with Autism Network Scotland to implement the autism strategy and to organise the national autism conference, bringing together best practice from around Scotland in health, education, social care, advocacy and employment.

We are working to build a better understanding of the factors that contribute to poor health and health care in this population. This will help us continue to improve and inform actions. We do this through the support of our data specialists - the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory

The Scottish Commission for Learning Disabilities assist us with the delivery of the policy priorities including the secretariat for the Keys to Life Leadership Group.

An independent review of learning disability and autism in the Mental Health Act in Scotland reported to Ministers on 18 December 2019. Read the final report and recommendations.

National autism post diagnostic support pilot

Further information on our pilot scheme that has recently been launched to deliver a post diagnostic support service.

National campaign

We launched our first national campaign on autism in October 2020 in response to our consultation on the Scottish strategy for Autism, which highlighted the stigma and discrimination that autistic people face. Visit the Different minds. One Scotland. campaign website to find out more and get involved.

Autism Strategy Review Group

We set up the Autism Strategy Review Group to help monitor and co-ordinate the implementation of the Scottish Strategy for Autism.

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