Is it Autism?

All children, young people and adults are unique and develop in different ways and at different times. Everyone has their own personality, likes, dislikes and way of being. There are a range of reasons why children develop differently. Careful consideration of many factors, by trained professionals, is important to establish a good understanding of a child and their developmental profile.   

Sometimes parents, family members, teachers and/or others may notice that child is developing quite differently to their peers. This can be particularly in the area of social communication, social interaction and thought processing.   

The brain of an autistic person simply works differently. Autistic people see, think, feel and make sense of the world differently to others. Some of their social behaviours may be considered unusual, unexpected or problematic. Some may display unusual reactions and responses to sensory information. They may be intolerant of things that most others accept. They may be unusually preoccupied with seeking sensory feedback from everyday materials.  

The NHS website provides useful information on the signs of autism in children and in adults.  

If you think your child might be autistic, here are some steps that you can take to help youThere are professionals you can talk to in confidence about your child:  

  • Your GP (all ages) 
  • Your health visitor (for under-5s). 
  • The school or nursery that your child attends will have a Special Educational Needs and Disability Coordinator (SENCo). 
  • Other Specialist professionals who provide support to schools, who with your agreement, can spend time with your child, observing and identifying any learning style differences. E.g., An Educational Psychologist or a Specialist Advisory Teacher for Communication and Interaction differences/Autism. 

Your conversation with a professional may lead to a referral and an autism assessment. An assessment may help you, your child and others to understand them better.  

  • It is important to speak to the professionals who have already worked with or seen your child. This includes staff at the nursery, school or setting i.e., the teachers and or SENCo. You may also have seen family support workers or health visitors. If your child is being considered for an autism assessment, ask them to record their observations or write reports that you can take to your appointment. 
  • Keep a behaviour diary. Make a list of the things that you feel may show your child is autistic. Try to keep your focus on the specific behaviours you have seen. 
  • You can also talk to friends, to ask if they’ve noticed anything about how your child is developing. 
  • Ask someone to go with you to talk to a professional about autism. It can be helpful having someone to take notes while you’re talking. That way, you have a record of what you discussed and agreed, plus any actions you decided together. 

If you need support or guidance, the National Autistic Society has a pre-diagnosis support guide for parents. They also provide a pre-diagnosis support guide for adults who think they may be autistic. You can also visit the  how do I get support pages.  

Some parents decide against getting a diagnosis for their child. Your child can still receive help at school without one.   

Once your child’s needs are identified, regardless of a diagnosis, help with things that are problematic can be planned for at the level of SEN Support in School. (SEND Code of Practice 2015).   

SEN Support means support that is additional or different from the support generally made for other children of the same age. All schools must provide this for children and young people with special educational needs. 

Alexander Ameline has produced a film that gives an uplifting introduction to autism for young non-autistic audiences, aiming to raise awareness, understanding and tolerance in future generations.

Page last reviewed: 17/08/2023

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