The Autism initiative has been running since 2007. Our initial interest was sparked by the findings of a report by New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) which concluded that, although the diagnosis and incidence of autism was increasing significantly, timely diagnosis and access to support and education was extremely variable. The report also found that the sector was underfunded.  A girl with curly hair studying
This initiative focused initially on funding practical research in autism education, with the intention of providing essential information to enable parents, carers and practitioners to provide the best possible care and support for young people with autism.  We made a major grant to enable the Institute of Education, in partnership with Ambitious about Autism (the national charity for autism education), to establish a Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), the purpose of which is to improve the research evidence for effective interventions, education and outcomes for children and young people with autism. CRAE aims to produce research findings that will influence health and education policy and practice in the UK and internationally.  
Other grants were to Research Autism to carry out a study into effective early intervention in order to identify and address behavioral challenges at a much earlier stage, and to Shared Care Network, which trains carers looking after children with autism, to put on events and produce materials to recruit and train carers. 
A boy leaning his head in his hands looking to camera
Our interest subsequently moved to transition to adulthood, with a grant to Ambitious about Autism to support them in developing a new College to support young people with autism in the transition stages to supported independent living, social, leisure, and employment opportunities.  
We also funded New Philanthropy Capital to produce an update on the previous report.  The report found that: since 2007, the profile of the autism sector has been raised significantly, in particular with the introduction of the Autism Act 2009 which led to a national autism strategy; and that the sector as a whole had become stronger with organisations working more effectively together.  
A boy in a grey hoody studying

Having funded major work in autism education and transition into adulthood, we became aware that the area of autism and ageing had received limited professional attention.

Our final grant for £217,000 was awarded to the National Autistic Society to design and undertake a large scale survey on autism and ageing, and to produce a practical guide for autism professionals. The NAS project will also aim to improve awareness and understanding of supporting older people with autism, and raise the profile of the issue at a national and local level.

The budget for this programme is now fully committed and we no longer fund autism in our proactive programmes. An external evaluation of the autism initiative is planned for late 2012 or early 2013.

However, capital projects involving autism are still eligible under our Main and Small Grants Programmes under the disability category.

To read the independent evaluation of this programme click here.
Top and bottom: Ambitious about Autism.
Middle: St Christopher's School.