Reporting Findings from an Exploratory Study of Social Workers’ Perceptions about autism Training

Philip Heslop*, Matthew Bushell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is considerable literature on autism but a paucity of literature on social work with autistic people. This is surprising when autistic people may be overrepresented in the populations that social workers assess and support. This article reports the findings from a qualitative study exploring social workers’ perceptions of training needs about autism through two focus groups involving social workers. Social workers frequently engage with autistic people, either as practitioners in specialist teams but more frequently through generic adult and/or childcare services; therefore, awareness of autism is important. Autism is complex because it is sometimes hidden, which is exacerbated when autistic people may mask and camouflage their autism and any difficulties they experience. Data from the focus groups were thematically analysed to identify themes that highlight how social workers benefit from training about autism and how to work with autistic people, which includes training from autistic people and others with lived experience. The authors of this article represent different perspectives: the first author is a social work educator with over three decades’ practice and personal autism experience, and the second author is a social work manager and practitioner in a specialist service.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberbcad108
Pages (from-to)3218-3236
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number6
Early online date3 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

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