A CLACKS charity has joined forces with Heriot-Watt University to take the lead on a pioneering creative project to better understand the experiences of older autistic adults.

Scottish Autism has partnered with the Edinburgh-based university to use filmmaking and art to explore the hopes, concerns and needs of the group.

They will aim to collate their research and co-produce a vision of future social care services for older adults with autism and learn disabilities.

Dr Joe Long, research and policy lead for Scottish Autism, said: “The first generation of autistic children to be supported by Scottish Autism in the 1960s are now reaching retirement age.

“It is vital that the voices of those supported autistic people are heard in developing services for this age group.

“There is very little research on the needs of older autistic people, and too often those with learning disabilities are not meaningfully included in research.

“This project will be a truly co-produced endeavour, providing different artistic mediums through which the hopes and aspirations of supported autistic people can be expressed.”

The seven-month project – entitled Ageing, health, and social care: the meaningful engagement of autistic people with learning disabilities – begins this month.

The production will be headed by Iceberg Productions, a group of autistic filmmakers supported by Scottish Autism.

They will interview autistic people with learning difficulties over 55 to hear about their experiences of growing older and the support provision that they would like as they get older.

Emma Stanley is a co-researcher on the project who is supported by Scottish Autism. She will be leading interviews for the documentary and spoke about her own support network as she gets older.

She said: “My support that I get now is okay, but I will probably need some more as I am getting older.

“It’s going to be more complex, the staff will need more training. A year ago, I lost my mum – there should be more on bereavement.

“I would like people to smile and be happy – think about the positive points as well as the negative.”

Once completed, the film will be presented at a series of workshops within the autistic community, with members asked to contribute to a collective piece of art.

This artwork will aim to express their own hopes and visions for health and social care for older autistic people with learning disabilities.

Professor Mary Stewart, director of social interaction, mental health and wellbeing at Heriot-Watt University, is the academic lead on the project.

She said: “The motivation behind the project came from the unfortunate reality that autistic people with learning disabilities do not often have their voices heard in research and there remains too little attention on good support for this group in older age.

“We aim to change this through raising awareness and developing dialogues around what good support looks like for this group.”