Autism is a developmental condition that affects the way children and young people communicate with and relate to others. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them. They often prefer routine and might struggle with change. They might have particularly intense interests and might be good at noticing patterns and small details.
Children and young people with autism frequently suffer from high levels of anxiety due to their difficulties in dealing with what’s going on around them.
Autism is a spectrum condition, which means that while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Autism isn’t a mental health difficulty, although some young people with autism might also have mental health issues. Autism is also associated with strengths such as attention to detail, noticing patterns and a passion for things that interests them.
A diagnosis of autism means that a child or young person has difficulties in three main areas:
Difficulty processing and retaining verbal information (literal interpretation); difficulty understanding jokes and sarcasm; difficulties with social use of language; difficulties understanding and using body language, facial expression and gesture
Difficulties with friendships and working co-operatively; might find breaks and lunchtimes more difficult to manage because they’re usually unstructured; might appear at times to be inappropriate or unusual in what they say or do (this isn’t done on purpose to annoy or upset people but is based on a lack of social understanding about ‘unwritten’ rules of conversation and behaviour)
A lack of social imagination and creative play; difficulties with flexibility of thought; difficulties with coping with changes, displaying rigid thinking and behaviours; an unusual need for structure and routine; a tendency towards unusual, restricted and intense interests
As well as the areas outlined above, many children and young people with autism will have difficulties with fine and gross motor co-ordination and organisational skills. They can also be affected by sensory sensitivities (sensitivities to noise, lights, smells, etc). They also tend to experience higher levels of anxiety; this can have a significant effect on their behaviour so the impact of anxiety on daily life shouldn’t be underestimated.
There are many positives of an autistic mind. This poster from the University of Leeds highlights the positive features you may encounter. But remember that every experience of autism is unique and no one person will identify with every feature of autism.
If you suspect your child may have autism, visit our autism assessment page, and talk to your school nurse or health visitor in the first instance.
If you feel your child has a mental health difficulty in addition to their autism, you should ask to be referred to our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
You should seek help when the child or young person’s symptoms have been occurring over several months; are having a significant impact on their day to day lives; and haven’t responded to interventions from prevention and early intervention services (such as youth counselling and behaviour support, evidence based parenting or treatment from primary mental health workers).
Schools are often the best people to make referrals as they’ll know your child or young person well. Ask for a meeting with the school ‘Special educational needs coordinator’ (SENCO) to discuss your concerns and how your child can be supported.
If the child or young person is having mild or moderate difficulties (such as mild depression, moderate behavioural difficulties, school refusal, family relationship difficulties, bedwetting and soiling), there are a number of services across Berkshire that can provide support. You can find these services through the Local Offer.
Here are some resources to help with some of the related characteristics of autism.
SHaRON Jupiter is an online support and advice service for parents and carers of children with autism provided by Berkshire Healthcare in partnership with agencies including Autism Berkshire, Parenting Special Children and Autism Support Workers in Berkshire.
If you’d like to join SHaRON, please ask your child’s CAMHS clinician, support worker or Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) to make a referral.
If you’re unable to get a referral form completed by a clinician, support worker or SENCO, Autism Berkshire will forward a completed referral form on your behalf.
Autism Spectrum Service for Information, Support and Training (ASSIST)
ASSIST is a Wokingham Borough Council Service which offers information about autism, local events and the opportunity to attend courses run for parents who have a child with a recent diagnosis of autism.
Phone: 0118 974 6881/6882
ASD Family Help
ASD Family Help is a charity offering free support and advice to individuals on the autism spectrum as well as parents, carers and professionals within the Wokingham Borough.
The Margaret Wells-Furby Children’s Centre
The Margeret Wells-Furby centre runs courses for parents of children aged up to 8 years old with autism.
Phone: 01344 456416 or 01344 354170
Email: Elaine.Allan@actionforchildren.org.uk or CDC@bracknell-forest.gov.uk
Autism Berkshire and Bracknell Forest Council
For children over 9 years, support services are provided jointly by the Autism Berkshire and Bracknell Forest Council.
Phone: 0118 9594594
The Shine Team
The Shine Team supports children in mainstream educational settings who have an autism spectrum diagnosis by providing an training to staff working specifically with pupils on a 1:1 basis, or in small groups to support social skills and/or transition years. SHINE also offers autism specific workshops to parents and carers, including EarlyBird, EarlyBird Plus and Cygnet programmes.
Phone: 01628 762253 (Mon-Fri 9am-12pm)
The Autism Group offers support and social opportunities for young people on the autism spectrum (specifically in the secondary school and above age group). It also offers autism training for parents, carers and people living and working in the Thames Valley area. The team is based near Maidenhead.
Special interest groups: For more information, contact Ruth on 07454 375071 or email email@example.com
Training: For more information, contact Dawn on 07463 337851 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Parent Support: For more information, contact Tricia on 07423 636339 or email email@example.com
After autism diagnosis - information for parents
After autism diagnosis - child
Ambitious about Autism
The Autism Group
National Autistic Society
National Autistic Society - after diagnosis leaflet
Parenting Special Children
Positives of autism