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Sophie Davies, a member of our Serious Injury team, shares her personal experience with autism and how, as solicitors, we can help support our autistic clients through the claims journey.  

A few weeks ago, having been sat on an NHS waiting list for over two years, my 15-year-old daughter was diagnosed by a psychologist as autistic. The medical term used is autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This diagnosis came as such a relief to my family and was a validation following years of questions, uncertainty and searching for answers.

Being the mother of an autistic child has its joys and challenges. My daughter has an encyclopaedic knowledge of sharks and the tv show Greys Anatomy but struggles to make a cup of tea or pay for something she wants to buy in a shop.

This very personal experience has led me to think about the ways in which I can raise awareness and educate myself to understand this developmental/hidden disability better. Not only to support my daughter but to also to help and support my autistic clients.

I don’t profess to know all the answers but feel that I can offer some helpful insights that may help support and reassure our clients with ASD.

It is important to stress that being autistic does not mean you are ill; it just means that your brain works in a different way from other people. Autism is a spectrum and everybody with autism is different and can have varying support needs.

Like many autistic people, my daughter finds navigating everyday life challenging. Autistic people may find it hard to communicate and interact with people. They may find bright lights or loud noises overwhelming. A new or unfamiliar situation or event may cause anxiety and it may take them longer to understand information.

Around 1 person in 100 people are on the autism spectrum with around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.

Autism is a spectrum condition which affects people in different ways.

Some of the effects that may be relevant to the work we do at Minster Law are briefly listed below:

  • Difficulties with social communication and social interactional challenges
  • Over or under sensitivity to light, sound, taste, or touch
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Meltdowns and shutdowns

Autistic people often have other conditions such as:

  • ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Epilepsy

More time may be needed to process and understand information and answer questions. Autistic people often have difficulty reading others and expressing emotions and this can make it hard to navigate social situations.

Many autistic people avoid everyday situations because of their sensitivity issues. Schools, workplaces, and shopping centres can lead to sensory overload, causing autistic meltdowns and shutdowns.

How can we help?

If we consider our autistic clients’ needs on a case-by-case basis we can offer practical support and advice throughout the claims process making the journey for them far easier to navigate.


Consider what the best method of communication is for your autistic client. Each client’s needs may differ. Speak to your client and ask them what their preference is and what they feel more comfortable with. Some autistic clients may find eye contact difficult.

They may find communicating information more difficult or more challenging.  Consider taking a break if a long discussion or conference is needed.

An autistic client with higher support needs may prefer to appoint an Authorised Person to assist with the day to day running of their case.

Supporting, understanding, and meeting their needs

If they are comfortable talking about their ASD, talk to your client and ask them what you can do to help and support them through the process. Ask about any potential triggers. Offer reassurance at key stages.

ASD clients may need more time to understand and process information. Listen, be patient and manage expectations.

Think about how we can offer practical support. Explain the key stages of the process in advance so there are less uncertainties/surprises.

Consider instructing experts with experience of ASD and let your experts know in advance so they are aware.


Avoid uncertainty. Prepare for situations in advance. My daughter is grounded by routine and certainty. Any unplanned changes can be a trigger.

Introducing new people to the case such as experts or counsel may be challenging to our autistic clients. I find it helpful to give advance notice in relation to this. Offer reassurance by sending the client the CV of the expert or barrister you intend to use so they can find out more about them. Let your barrister and counsel know of any challenges or triggers so they can be avoided.

Fee earner changes may cause significant distress and need to be managed sensitively.


In many (but not all) cases, litigation/trial is likely to be a significant challenge for an ASD client. Explaining the process step-by-step, informing the court/counsel and being prepared for these challenges in advance is important. More time for trial may be needed. Consider the environment at court (an unfamiliar setting, bright lights, a noisy environment) and how this may impact your client and what practical steps can be taken to help. My daughter will often wear ear defenders in these situations which help.

From my own personal experience, good communication, patience, preparation and taking time to listen and offer support to our autistic clients if needed, should harness a successful working relationship, and improve the client journey.