Ellern Mede holds regular academic sessions where all staff share best practice news and views on clinical areas and research relevant to the specialist field in which we work – eating disorder treatment. Frequently eating disorders are associated with other secondary mental health conditions so we cover quite a wide range of topics.

Dr Salbu Krishnan, who co-ordinates these events, said of one held in February addressed by specialist doctor Dr Antoinette Loroy on recognising differences between Autism Spectrum Disorder vs Attachment Disorder: “Many thanks to Dr Loroy for her structured presentation on ASD vs Attachment. It was house full, with 21 attendees from nursing, psychology, family therapy, dietetic, social work, management and medical. The mix of disciplines made the discussion lively.”

Our next session is on 22 February 2018. On ORTHOREXIA – ‘Pathological healthy eating’, to be presented by Assistant Dietician, Bethany Francois.

The January 2018 presentation was by psychologist Giovanni Pace on Transference.

Here are a few interesting points made in these sessions that may interest a broader than clinical audience.


In a hospital setting, patients can transfer certain feelings they usually feel towards someone they know well to any or all members of their care team;

Transference can be an attempt to repair or to fill a relational void from any previous time in their life;

The patient tries to re-enact this previous relationship or pattern of behaviour and will expect the response they have had previously;

Growth for the patient happens when a different response is given and they can re-learn a different pattern of relating with a different outcome.

ASD vs Attachment

The three characteristics which typically coexist to warrant a diagnosis of autism are dysfunctionality in social interaction, social imagination and social communication. But any of those three are also common in attachment disorder so there is an overlap of symptoms.

Some children have autism, some have attachment difficulties and some have both.

These symptoms can also be evident to some extent in young people with eating disorders.

One difference is that with treatment, someone with an attachment disorder may reduce symptomatic behaviour and could cease to have this diagnosis, whereas someone with autism spectrum disorder may learn to manage behaviour but they will always have autism.

A group of CAMHS clinicians led by Heather Moran, in Coventry, England, developed a tool which helps clinicians to differentiate between these two sets of conditions. It is called the Coventry Grid. To read more about this you could visit the Research Gate website which has more information.