How partnership working has enhanced mental health interventions for autistic children

By Dr Vicki Grahame, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) and the Clinical Lead for the Complex Neurodevelopmental Disorders Service (CNDS), at Walkergate Park.

Today (10 October) is World Mental Health Day and in this blog, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of my academic, administrative and clinical colleagues across Newcastle University and CNTW, who are both partners of NHIP. We have together, over the last 13 years collectively brought together an improvement in access to evidence based mental health interventions for autistic children, which deliver concrete improvements in everyday life.

It really has been a team effort (and continues to be!)

All of my research is undertaken in collaboration with colleagues and methodologists from Newcastle University. In particular my mentor and inspiration Professor Jacqui Rodgers (who is now my colleague but originally was my supervisor on the Newcastle University/CNTW clinical psychology doctorate training). I am lucky in that I have been part of some amazing clinical trials and learned from the best (initially supervising clinical therapists on the Beating Anxiety Together Study to sitting on others steering committees to delivering my own research). I have benefited from the collective wisdom of many experts in their own fields of expertise from health economists to statisticians. Professor Ann LeCouteur and Professor Helen McConachie taught me the value of co-creating and co-producing research with autistic individuals and parents of autistic children.  Thus ensuring that my research is relevant to the autism community, designed in a way that is acceptable to families and individuals, and thus likely to have a positive impact.

I have recently successfully completed a NIHR Health Technology Assessment (HTA) multi-site fully powered randomised control trial to evaluate the clinical and cost effectiveness of a new parent group intervention to support parents to recognise, understand and respond to their autistic children’s impactful repetitive behaviours.

This study is one of only a handful that managed to successfully stay open and support families during the pandemic. Autistic children and their families were often disproportionately impacted by the COVID 19 restrictions, with reduced access to support and services. Keeping the study open and completing the research would not have been possible without all the amazing flexibility and innovative thinking from the research and support staff across CNTW and Newcastle University. We were able to work creatively together to implement coronavirus amendments quickly and efficiently to allow remote working and find an online secure platform for delivering our parent group interventions. We couldn’t have done this without the dedication and hard work of all research staff and clinical staff involved.

We are now developing our dissemination plans with autistic individuals, families and key stakeholders. It is hoped that this new parent group intervention can be rolled out across the NHS into everyday clinical practice and provide early support to autistic children and their families.

Skip to content