Break-through service for autistic youngsters with an eating disorder

PEACE announces tailored support for autistic children and young people with an eating disorder this Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Break-through service for autistic youngsters with an eating disorder

An innovative service is bringing specialist care to autistic and possibly autistic young people living with an eating disorder.

The BOB PEACE service is the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire Pathway for Eating disorders and Autism developed from Clinical Experience.  The team works directly with Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) professionals to promote awareness and tailored support for autistic and possibly autistic youngsters with eating disorders, as well as working directly with a small number of children and young people and families.

The service has been developed in partnership with local autistic young people who have experienced an eating disorder, plus their families, carers and mental health professionals and is guided by the latest research.

Autistic people are much more likely than neurotypical people to develop an eating disorder and can have poorer outcomes and experiences.

  • Approximately 23% of people with an eating disorder are autistic
  • Approximately 16% of children and adolescents with anorexia nervosa are autistic
  • Approximately 35% of adults admitted to hospital for eating disorder inpatient care score highly on screening measures for autism
  • About 1% of people in the general population are autistic.

The PEACE team is already working with mental health professionals to raise awareness and support earlier identification of co-occurring eating disorders and autism. The service also supports teams to make reasonable adjustments to communication and treatment. Many young people are already benefitting from a better experience of care and improved outcomes. The service is guided by the latest research, the expertise within teams and the voices of people with lived experiences.

PEACE is led by Oxford Health and was launched as a three-year project covering Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire funded NHSE Innovation Funding via the Learning and Disability and Autism Integrated Care System (ICS). It extends learning from the adult PEACE pathway developed by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, to the care of local children and young people in community settings

Oxford Health’s clinical lead Jo Holliday said autistic children and young people and their families have been key to the co-production of the PEACE service.

It comes as the trust marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

She said: “This is a really exciting development in the care of people with eating disorders and will make such an invaluable difference to the lives of autistic people. Traditional eating disorder approaches have not always met the needs of autistic people. Now the PEACE service is being co-produced with young people with autism and eating disorders to make sure everyone has the right access to individualised care and treatment. We’re ensuring we are responding appropriately to feedback and providing a service whereby young people are empowered to be involved in decision-making and developments that are important to their care.

“We are now offering staff consultations on cases as the first point of support, along with training for clinician about identifying the signs of an eating disorder and autism in young people and how best to adapt their approach and treatment to suit the needs of the patient.”

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Published: 2 March 2023