Alcohol support may need to be tailored to better support autistic people, according to the team behind a new collaborative project between the University and Alcohol Concern.

The team behind the project raise concerns that for the 700,000 people in the UK on the autistic spectrum, dedicated support for those drinking heavily could be insufficient and that service providers’ understanding of the needs of the autistic community may be lacking.

While there is no suggestion that people with autism misuse alcohol more than others, there is growing evidence that some people on the autistic spectrum use alcohol to ‘self-medicate’, and numerous accounts of alcohol being used as a stress-management tool.

Appropriately tailored support

The researchers behind the new project have launched two online surveys to find out more about autistic adults’ relationship with alcohol, as well as to gauge their thoughts on what improvements can be made to improve alcohol-related services for autistic people.

Professor Mark Brosnan, Director of our Centre for Applied Autism Research within the Department of Psychology said: “It’s really important that support provided to autistic people is appropriately tailored to their needs and that potential obstacles are thought about and overcome.

“Little has been studied on the issue of alcohol misuse within the autistic community, which makes this study doubly important. We hope the results of our surveys can go on to inform better service provision for autistic clients, and more broadly raise the issue of alcohol use within the autistic community – a topic which has received little attention to date.”

Andrew Misell, Director for Wales at the new charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK, said: “If people with autism do drink there is some evidence that they are likely to have greater difficulty managing their drinking behaviour, and be more prone towards harmful drinking and alcohol dependence.

“We want to help the autistic community access the services they need in the most appropriate ways, and so we encourage everyone interested to take part.”

There are two online surveys available, each taking roughly 15-minutes to complete. One is aimed at those aged 16 and over from the autistic community and the other alcohol related-service providers.

Results from both will be used to provide new insights into alcohol support available for autistic people.

Complete the questionnaire: