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Making decisions for your autistic young person

Every person from the age of 16 and above has the right to make their own decisions if they have the capacity to do so. 

This webpage and downloadable resource will explain how to decide if someone can make their own decisions, and what to do if they can’t. 

Download the resource

What does mental capacity mean?

Mental capacity means a person’s ability to understand information and make decisions about their life.

There are five key principles of mental capacity. These will help you understand whether someone can make their own decisions and provide information on how to determine if they cannot.

The five principles are:

  1. A person must be assumed to have capacity unless it is established that they lack capacity.  
  2. All practical steps are taken to help someone make their own decision.  
  3. Just because a person makes an unwise decision does not mean they lack the capacity to make it. 
  4. Decisions must be made in a person’s best interests if they don’t have capacity. 
  5. Decisions should be the least restrictive of the person’s basic rights and freedoms if they don’t have capacity.

You can learn more about the five principles and how to apply them to your own situations through our informative downloadable resource


Who decides whether someone has mental capacity? 

It will be those involved in the care of the person, for example, a parent/carer, care worker, or support staff who will usually decide on capacity. This is because it is the family or carers who have day-to-day contact with the person, know them best, and may even be present when the specific decision needs to be made. 

For complex decisions where there is doubt about capacity or where capacity is challenged, then advice should be sought from a professional such as a doctor, psychologist or social worker to advise on whether the person has the capacity or not. 

Any person deciding on capacity must have a ‘reasonable belief’ that the person lacks capacity, and they must have taken reasonable steps to satisfy themselves about the lack of capacity. In case of any challenges to the decision made, the person or people who made the decision should be prepared to explain the steps they have taken to decide on capacity and what decision was made in the person’s best interests and that is least restrictive.  


Learn more about making decisions for your young person

Download our resource on making decisions for your young person, with practical advice and case studies. 


Watch a webinar on understanding mental capacity 

Sign up to Talk about Autism, the online community for parents and carers, to watch a webinar on understanding mental capacity. The webinar is hosted by Jo Salsbury who is Head of Family Services at Ambitious about Autism and an experienced solicitor in the SEND sector. She is also a parent to an autistic young person.

Watch the webinar