First ever Autism outcomes tool is released

The first ever outcomes-measurement tool to help assess the progress and change of people with autism while they are in care has been released.

The launch of the Spectrum Star tool means professionals have access to a tailor-made instrument that assesses how individuals with an Autistic Spectrum Condition progress while in hospital, residential or supported-living care.

The tool is likely to be widely taken up by care services, particularly as commissioners seek ways to measure how individuals with autism, including those with Asperger Syndrome, move through a care pathway, and to assess the cost-effectiveness of care services.

“Spectrum Star is the first outcome-measurement tool which can demonstrate how clients with an Autism Spectrum Condition are improving while receiving services,” said Sue Hahn, deputy hospital manager at Milton Park Hospital, a specialist unit in Wyboston, Bedfordshire, for people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions.

“Until now professionals working in autism have had to use outcome measurement tools for people with mental health problems, e.g. HONuS.

“These are just not appropriate or specific enough for people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions,” said Ms Hahn.

The Spectrum Star was developed by outcomes-measurement experts Triangle Consulting in conjunction with Brookdale Care, a leading independent provider of hospital, residential and supported living for people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions. Brookdale Care manages Milton Park Hospital.

Available from Triangle Consulting, Spectrum Star is free for all service providers on a creative commons license.The tool will have wide appeal for NHS and Local Authority commissioners, says Mark Goldsborough, manager of Milton Park Hospital.

“Increasingly commissioners want to see outcomes provided by care services, particularly in the present environment of tight NHS budgets, and moves towards payment by results,”
“The Spectrum Star can help commissioners evaluate whether or not money is well spent.”

Research and piloting of Spectrum Star, which was released last month, began in 2010.

Service users, including 92 patients from Brookdale Care’s services, were involved throughout its development, attending workshops and testing pilots.

“Historically it has been clinicians who have designed other tools in mental health. But, with Spectrum Star, service users collaborated from the start,” said Ms Hahn.

“Research for Spectrum Star involved running three workshops each attended by up to 40 service users and professionals.

“Service users spoke out a lot during these events. They challenged, disagreed, and suggested every step of the way. I feel service users have genuine ownership of Spectrum Star.

”Spectrum Star allows service users to work alongside professionals in rating their abilities from one to ten in nine “Journey of Change” areas, such as physical health, sensory differences and relationships.

A keyworker then marks each rating point. After all nine scales have been completed, a line joins all the points, so creating a star shape which changes as a person moves through the scales.

The star can also be computer-generated.“Spectrum Star feels real in the sense that it is person-centred, allows a shared and accessible language between clients and professionals, and can facilitate ongoing discussions around how people are improving or not,” says Ms Hahn.

“Importantly, the tool can also encourage people to have difficult-to-have conversations, such as addressing inappropriate behaviour.”

The nine ‘Journey of Change’ areas of Spectrum Star are: Physical health; Living skills and self-care; Well-being and self-esteem; Sensory differences; Communication; Social skills; Relationships; Socially responsible behaviour; Time and activities.profession.”

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