Since early 2021, a team within Sussex Partnership have taken an in-depth look at what it means for acute adult mental health wards to be ‘Autism Friendly’. The team used a fully collaborative process, with Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists and Experts by Experience (EbEs) working alongside ward teams, Trust Estates and Facilities, project management and contracted teams on planned ward refurbishments, as well as future projects within the Trust.
The project had three key elements of focus: Environment; Training and Practice. This workshop will focus on the Environmental element of the project, explaining the background to the project (why now? why at all?); our process; findings and recommendations and will challenge attendees to consider how this can apply to their own work in the future.
Environmental aspects – the physical and sensory experience of the ward – were the starting point of the project, and drove huge changes within the planned refurbishments to ensure that the Expert by Experience voice was at the centre of the project.
A sensory environmental audit tool was used to assess two acute adult mental health wards, and recommendations were made by clinicians and EbEs, alongside the most up to date rapidly expanding research, to improve the experience of admission for autistic service users.
The team ensured that incorporated decision making was central to the whole process and the impact of this has been reflected upon by all involved.
The project has produced various guidelines that suggest ‘standards’ for good practice for each of the project elements. Within this workshop we will share relevant items when considering the impact of sensory aspects of hospital ward environments for individuals who are autistic, and may have sensory sensitivities.
We hope that this workshop will empower attendees to re-think their preconceptions about the inclusive design process, EbE involvement and future project output to maximise benefit for those who are neurodivergent using mental health services, and how this can ultimately benefit all users.
• PowerPoint presentation – 2x in-person speakers (clinicians), with Expert-by-Experience support TBC
• Interactive talk
• Small group activity – to discuss how recommendations could be applied and what is one thing they will take away to use/reflections
• Individual reflection