Autism is a life-long, developmental condition which affects more than 1 in 100 children in the UK.

Autism can affect a person’s ability to communicate with and relate to others, their understanding of the world and their ‘sensory processing’ – the way their brain interprets sounds, touch, tastes, smells, lights, or colours.

Children with Autism may have a love of routine and repetitive activities and find change very difficult to cope with. They may become extremely interested in one subject and not want to talk about anything else.

You may hear the term Autism or Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) used to talk about a wide ‘spectrum’ of conditions, including ‘childhood autism’, which can be diagnosed from about two years old, where children may be completely ‘non-verbal’, (i.e. don’t talk at all), to ‘Aspergers Syndrome’ or ‘High Functioning Autism’ which can be harder to diagnose as children may appear to be very good at learning information, but struggle with their social skills.

Many more boys than girls are diagnosed with Autism and girls who are on the spectrum often have very different symptoms to boys. Pathological Demand Avoidance (or PDA) is also now considered an Autistic Spectrum Condition.

Bringing up a child with Autism

Getting a diagnosis

If you notice any of the symptoms of Autism and are concerned about your child’s development you should discuss this with your G.P. They can arrange for your child to have a specialist assessment to see if they need a diagnosis if necessary. 

If you have had a diagnosis of Autism, you should be referred to see a paediatric consultant who can talk to you more about the input your child will need to support them at home, at school and with their social life.

Children with Autism may need help from several different specialists to support their development, including a speech and language therapist, to support their communication and social skills, an occupational therapist, to help suggest techniques and equipment to make their physical environment easier to cope with, and a child psychologist to help them cope with any anxiety or behavioural issues they might have.

If your child is given a diagnosis of Autism, it can leave you feeling upset, shocked and concerned. It may be helpful to remember that your child is still the same person and that nothing has changed. Giving children the ‘label’ of Autism can just be considered as a way for professionals to be able to signpost and provide appropriate support for your child. The better support your child receives, the more they can thrive, be happy and achieve their potential.

Coming to terms with a diagnosis can still be difficult though, and affect your whole family. There are many organisations and support groups for parents and families of children with Autism, both locally and online. The National Autistic Society or Contact a Family should be able to give you details of these.

Connecting with others in the same situation and being able to talk through your feelings and concerns can be very helpful. 

Resources from CBeebies

CBeebies’ show Something Special (featuring Mr Tumble) was designed for children with communication difficulties and uses Makaton, a system of signs and symbols which helps non-verbal children or those with language delay to communicate. Many children with Autism enjoy Something Special, and it can be a great resource for helping them learn to communicate.

Find out more about Makaton and how to use it here.

Helping your child to develop their communication skills can help them to relieve frustration, understand the world and interact with those around them. Find out lots of information, ideas and resources on our communication difficulties page.

Children with Autism and technology

Many children with autism enjoy using computers and technology and you may find they seem to learn new skills around technology easily.

There are many apps and websites specially for people with Autism and these can be a great way of helping children learn new things and cope with life. There are now app versions of many autistic therapeutic tools like visual timetables and social stories widely available.

CBeebies Website

The CBeebies website has games and activities specially designed with input from early years specialists. Playing these games and activities can be a great way of helping your child focus on early years topics.

Dealing with change

Coping with changes in routine can be extremely hard for children with Autism. Anything from the birth of a new sibling to taking a different route to school can be difficult for them to manage emotionally. Our ‘dealing with change’ resource contains lots of ideas and strategies to help you manage these situations.

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