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Autistic Spectrum Disorder
This page is all about autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Click on the questions below to find out more information.
- What is autistic spectrum disorder?
Autistic Spectrum Disorder, commonly known as autism, is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.
Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum can learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.
Autism, Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are all different names to describe this disability. Some people with autism don’t like the term ‘Disorder’, as it makes their autism seem wholly negative. On the other hand, others dislike the term ‘condition’ as it may suggest that autism can be cured. Autistic people may refer to themselves as ‘neurodiverse’ and people without autism as ‘neurotypical’.
Thanks to the National Autistic Society for some of these definitions.
You can read more about the symptoms of ASD on the NHS Choices website.
- What should I do if I am worried about my child?
Before you do anything, familiarize yourself with ‘What to Expect, When’? Some children just need a little extra time to meet certain milestones — yours may be one of them. A good first step is talking to people who already work with you and your family about your concerns.
If something is bothering you about the way your child is behaving, or if it seems very different from the way other children that age behave, write down your observations. That way you can remember exactly what you saw or felt, and you’ll be able to tell whether what you saw gets better or worse.
If you are still concerned, you can talk to your GP or health visitor. Carefully explain what you’ve observed. A practitioner like a GP or Health Visitor has specialist training and may be able to calm your fears quickly, or refer your child for an assessment.
Your child could be displaying difficulties with:
- Their speech development
- Responding to others, physically or verbally
- Interacting or playing
- Their behaviour
Please visit this NHS Choices page for more information about the signs and symptoms of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. There is no ‘one size fits all’ set of behaviours that a child with autistic spectrum disorder will exhibit.
- What help and support is available in Devon?
Parent Carer Support Groups
There are lots of parent carer support groups focused specifically on autism. Please contact the groups directly if you want to join in.
South West Autism – A not-for-profit Community Interest Company which runs support groups for families and children with an autistic spectrum disorder (diagnosis not needed). South West Autism provides a range of services including training, parent support, sibling support and enabling all over Devon.
North Devon Forum for Autistic Spectrum Conditions and ADHD – a parent/carer led support group, established in 1992 by a group of parents and professionals concerned with children on the spectrum. Membership is FREE to those in our North Devon area, and is for people, their families, carers and professionals and organisations who live and/or work with ASC/ADHD. A diagnosis is not necessary to join.
Crediton Parent Carers drop-in group
If you care for a child or young person with SEN, learning difficulties, disability, mental health problems, a neurodevelopment disorder such as autism or any long-term health condition and would like the mutual support, understanding and friendship of others in the same boat, why not go along and join them. Drop in from 10:00am – 12:00 1st and 3rd Friday of each month at Crediton Congregational Church. The group started on Friday 4th May 2018. A small donation towards running costs of 50p – £2 would be appreciated.
Crediton Playscheme – a charity run exclusively by local volunteers to benefit local children with additional needs.
Parents United, Tiverton – A parent carer support group that meets every two weeks at the Tiverton Hotel
Affinity Support – This Tiverton-based group was set up in 2017 by concerned staff and professionals, to support families of children and young people with Autism or on the diagnosis pathway. The group is held on the first two Wednesdays of every month alternating morning and afternoon, for parents who have other commitments.
Groups for Children and Young People
Some groups offer parent support at the same time as children and young people’s groups.
Asperations, Kingsteignton Youth Centre – a support group for parents to share experienced and get advice. A children and young people’s group operates in the Youth Centre while the parent support group meets.
Social Opportunities (SOCOPS) was created to reach out to Children with Autistic Spectrum Conditions and their families to provide help, support and understanding. They have meetings for two age groups, Monday evenings between 6:30pm and 8:30 during term times at their Exeter base.
SOCOPS PLUS – Thursday evenings during term time, locations and times vary. Please contact Co-ordinator for further details on 07594-187578
Life with a sibling who has autism can really difficult. There is support and opportunities for siblings.
- What do different professionals do to support a child with autism?
Options has produced a guide to different professionals and their roles – this will explain what different professionals do to support a child or young person with autism.
There is an Autism and CAMHS toolkit produced by the National Autistic Society and the Autism Alliance.
Any intervention should focus on important aspects of your child’s development. These are:
- communication skills – such as using pictures to help communicate (as speech and language skills are usually significantly delayed)
- social interaction skills – such as the ability to understand other people’s feelings and respond to them
- imaginative play skills – such as encouraging pretend play
- academic skills – the “traditional” skills a child needs to progress with their education, such as reading, writing and maths
The detailed assessment, management and co-ordination of care for children and young people with ASC should involve local specialist community-based multidisciplinary teams (sometimes called “local autism teams”) working together.
General Practitioners (GPs)
A family doctor or GP is usually the first person to talk to if you are worried about your child’s development or you have concerns about their behaviour.
The GP can make a referral to the ASC diagnosis team, which can assess your child. You can also self-refer your child to this team.
Virgin Care Autism Assessment Service
Devon Integrated Children’s Services, provided by Virgin Care, provides the diagnostic assessment service for Devon.
The service consists of multi-disciplinary teams located in the east, north, south and west of Devon.
The virtual, multi-disciplinary ASC teams are made up of the following professionals:
- Specialist Speech and Language Therapist
- Paediatrician and/or Psychiatrist
- Specialist Autism Spectrum Practitioner
- Clinical Psychologist
The team also has access to the following professionals:
- Educational Psychologist
- Learning Disability Nurse
- Occupational Therapist
- Social Workers
- Assistant Psychologist
- Specialist Nurse
- Occupational Therapist
- Specialist Teachers
Babcock Learning and Development Partnership (LDP) Communication and Interaction Team
The Communication & Interaction (C&I) Team consists of highly qualified and experienced Advisory Teachers, a Pre-5 Autism Specialist and Specialist Support Assistants. The team offers support, advice and guidance for children and young people where Autism and/or Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN) is the primary need. The C&I Team supports children and young people who attend schools and educational settings (including nurseries and pre-schools).
To make a request for support from the Communication and Interaction Team, you need:
- Parental consent
- The request must come from a professional/practitioner in Education or Health
Babcock LDP provides Devon’s Educational Psychology service.
The Babcock LDP Educational Psychology Service is concerned with the positive development, learning, achievement and well-being of children and young people. Members of the team are Educational Psychologists (EPs) and they work closely with schools, families, pre-schools, and colleges to promote positive outcomes for children and young people.
All EPs have:
- Specialist post-graduate qualifications and expertise in the application of psychology in education.
- An excellent knowledge of the current education system including SEND legislation and Devon-specific processes.
- A detailed understanding of child development and special educational needs (SEN)
- Substantial experience supporting children and young people.
- Registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
The team is organised into four locality teams across Devon, based in the North (Barnstaple), South (Totnes) and there are two central teams (East and West). Each team services a group of schools and the children, young people and families living in those areas.
Private Educational Psychologists also operate in Devon – we have an Educational Psychologist Policy which makes it clear that Devon County Council must, and does, consider all evidence presented by a school or parent, including any private reports.
- What can I do as a parent carer to support a child with autism?
Virginia Bovell talks about her experiences as a parent of a child with autism, and what she wishes she’d known sooner and what she wishes she knew now.
The activities highlighted in the mind map will help you understand your child and make day to day life easier to manage with their difficulties.
- What is the process for getting assessed for autism?
- Request an assessment
- Ensure information on the request is accurate and complete
- Virgin Care adds the request to the ‘pre-accept’ list
- The referral is assessed by a team of clinicians (Paediatricians, Psychologists and autism specialists)
- The Paediatrician writes a report
- The referral is added to the Autism Assessment Team’s waiting list
- The Autism Assessment Team carries out an assessment
- The diagnosis report is sent to the person who made the referral
The process may take some time, this can be really difficult for families so all professionals working with you will do their best to support you. See the section “What help and support is available in Devon?” for more information about this.
- What training is available?
Training for Parent Carers
South West Autism offers training for parent carers and professionals on Autism.
CEDA Bisnet (Behaviour Intervention Support Network) offers training for parent carers on aggressive and challenging behaviour, ADHD, autism, Pathological Demand Avoidance, parent safety, breakaway techniques and more.
Devon Information Advice and Support for SEND (DIAS) offers training for parents to get better outcomes from meetings.
Training for Professionals
Babcock LDP has been offering the Devon Enhanced Autism Programme (DEAP) to schools since 2017 and offers Autism Good Practice training (September 2018).
The National Autistic Society offers a range of Autism training.
CEDA Bisnet offers training for professionals as well as parents.
South West Autism offers training for professionals on Autism.
- Where can I get more information?
These websites are good places to look if you want to do some more research into autism.
- Autism Education Trust (AET) – resources to support effective education for children with autism
- National Autistic Society – a charity which supports autistic people and their families across the UK
- The Den – part of the AET, for children and young people with autism
- Youthhealthtalk.org – young people’s experiences of autism
- Devon formulary – advice aimed at health professionals
- NHS choices – an overview of autism
page updated 21/08/18