What you might like to know if you have an autistic child or young person

What is autism?

Autism is also known as autistic spectrum condition (ASC) or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

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.

There are 3 key areas of difference:

  • Social communication and interaction
  • Restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviours, activities or interests
  • Sensory sensitivities 

Autistic people often prefer routine and might struggle with change. They might have particularly intense interests (described by an autistic person as their passion and joy) and might be good at noticing patterns and small details.

Watch the National Autistic Society video on 'what is autism?'.

For further information about autism visit the National Autistic Society website.

Who can I contact if I think my child may have autism?

Go to the Berkshire NHS children, young people and families services (CYPF) website to read support and advice information related to children and young people’s development.

If you are still concerned, make an appointment with your GP or health visitor.

Write down and take a list of characteristics linked to the 3 key areas of difference as outlined above that make you think your child might have autism

You may wish to talk to your child’s early years keyworker, teacher or the schools Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) to see if they have any similar concerns.

Process for getting an assessment for autism

A teacher, special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) or health visitor in agreement with parents can make a referral to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). Parents can also make a referral by going to the Berkshire NHS Healthcare website and completing the online referral form. This should only be done after checking the referral criteria. 

CAMHS can assess a child between the ages of 1 and 17 and a half years old.

To find out more about the autism assessment process go to the Berkshire NHS Healthcare Children, Young People and Families Services website

Watch the Berkshire NHS Healthcare video on 'what to expect in an assessment'.

Support available from professionals

Below is a listing of Wokingham Borough council, school and NHS services who may be involved with helping and supporting a child or young person who has autism and their family.

Early Years Inclusion Teachers (0 to 5)

The Early Years Inclusion Teachers visit a child’s home and work with their family to support a child’s development. This is referred to as a portage service.

A child needs to be referred to the service through a healthcare professional or the Early Years Inclusion Advisor.

Early Years Inclusion Advisor (0 to 5)

The Early Years Inclusion Advisor provides specialist advice and support to pre-school and nursery staff, as well as childminders who receives, the early years free entitlement funding and care for a child who lives in the Wokingham Borough.

Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO also known as SENDCO) 

Every nursery and school has Special Educational Needs Coordinator. They are the key people in the school who liaise with other school staff and parents and agree what extra support might be required whilst in school.

This could be:

  • Different methods of teaching
  • Extra help from another staff member
  • Use of particular equipment and/or supporting visuals
            

The SENCo will:  

  • Coordinate the help children need day to day  
  • Discuss individual targets with the parents
  • Offer advice to key workers
         

These targets then become an Early Years Intervention Plan (EYIP) or school based plan. 

Educational Psychology Service

The Educational Psychology Service (EPS) work with schools, settings, parents/carers, children and other professionals to promote children’s learning, development and psychological well-being.

They can provide support through:

  • Helping teachers and parents to understand a child's needs
  • Carrying out specialist assessments
  • Offering behavioural strategies
  • Therapeutic support
  • Evaluate individual pupil progress

For further information on Educational Psychology Service (EPS) please go to their directory listing.
         

Children, Young People, Integrated Therapies (CYIPT)  

The following services are part to the Berkshire NHS Healthcare therapy service known as CYPIT:  

  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Speech and Language Therapy
  • Dietetics
         

To find out how each of these services support a child visit the Berkshire NHS Healthcare Children, Young People and Families Services website. 

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)   

CAMHS provide an assessment for autism pathway and assess a child if they’re suspected of being on the autism spectrum (following triage and being placed on the pathway waiting list) and are aged between 1 and 17 and a half years old. To find out more about the autism assessment and how it works go to the Berkshire NHS Healthcare Children, Young People and Families Services website.

ASSIST (Autism Spectrum Service for Information, Support and Training)  

ASSIST is a Wokingham Borough Council family support service. The service delivers the National Autistic Society EarlyBird, EarlyBird Plus and Teen Life parent programmes as well as other training workshops. ASSIST also have drop in sessions and other activities. The team can support parents and practitioners to be solution focused, so what are the issues and then seeking possible solutions from an autism perspective.

For further information on ASSIST please go to their directory listing.

Help and support in the Wokingham Borough

The Wokingham Borough and surrounding areas has lots of support services and groups specifically for autistic children and young people and their families.

ASSIST (Autism Spectrum Service for Information, Support and Training)  

ASSIST is a Wokingham Borough Council family support service. The service delivers the National Autistic Society EarlyBird, EarlyBird Plus and Teen Life parent programmes as well as other training workshops. ASSIST also have drop in sessions and other activities. The team can support parents and practitioners to be solution focused, so what are the issues and then seeking possible solutions from an autism perspective.

For further information on ASSIST please go to their directory listing.

Dingley's Promise

Dingley's Promise provides specialist support to under 5s with special educational needs and disabilities and their families. This is done through:

  • Providing specialist learning through play
  • Family support and training
  • Advice to mainstream settings

Visit the Dingley Promise website to find out more.

Short breaks and respite 

Short breaks can provide children and young people with disabilities opportunities to spend time away from their parents and carers, relaxing and having fun with their friends

A short break can also provide families with a break from their caring responsibilities and give parent and carers a chance to unwind, spend time with their other children or take part in leisure or training activities.

Go to our short breaks and respite web page to find out if you’re eligible and how to apply for an assessment.

Children with Additional needs Network and CAN card

The Children with Additional needs Network and CAN card is an information and support service for children and young people with additional needs and their families. Joining is free and means you'll be sent a regular newsletter, which gives you information about what is happening locally, leisure activities and consultations. 

Children and young people with a diagnosed condition will also be able to apply for a CAN card. This gives some concessions at many local attractions in and around Berkshire.  

Go to the Children with Additional needs Network web page for more information.

Optalis Supported Employment Service

The Optalis Supported Employment Service provides a friendly and confidential employment support service for young people with special educational needs and disability and those transitioning from education into employment.

For further information and details of how to access the service, visit the Optalis website

The Local Offer directory

Further support services and groups for autistic children and young people can be found on the Local Offer directory.

Does my child need an Education, Health and Care Plan?

A diagnosis of autism does not automatically mean your child needs an Education, Health and Care Plan in order to receive the support they need.

All educational settings are required to follow the SEND Code of Practice to meet the individual needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities. However if the educational setting has taken 'relevant and purposeful action to identify, assess and meet the special educational needs of the child, the child has not made expected progress, the setting should consider requesting an Education, Health and Care needs assessment' (SEND Code of Practice 2015).

If you feel, your child needs more support than they are currently receiving to meet their expected progress you can ask us to carry out an Education Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment. For further information go to our Education, Health and Care (EHC) needs assessment web page.

Support service

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) provide free, confidential, impartial advice, guidance and support on education matters for children and young people up to the age of 25 with special educational needs and disabilities.

How can I find a school that meets my child’s needs?

Every school must publish information about how it supports children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities - this is known as its Local Offer.

To read a school’s Local Offer information go to our directory and search the name of the school. The Local Offer information should cover:

        
  • How the school identify children and young people with special educational and disabilities
  • What provision the school make for children or young people with special educational needs and disabilities
  •    
  • How the school adapt the curriculum for children or young people with special educational needs and disabilities
  •     
  • How targets are set, supported and reviewed to help a child progress
  •     
  • How the school staff monitor the progress of a child
  •    
  • How the school ensure a successful transition between nursery and school, primary school and secondary school and between the different school stages
  •   
  • What training teachers and teaching assistants have in relation to autism
  •     
  • What other professionals work with the school to support children with autism
  •    
  • How information is communicate to parents and carers

Each schools website will have an annual Special Educational Needs (SEN) information report.

When choosing a school for your child it is important to visit by either making an appointment or attending an open day. Find out who the schools Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) is and arrange to speak with them.

Visit the National Autistic Society website - choosing a school page for guidance on visiting a school and your child's rights.

Schools which have been adapted

Westende Junior School in the Wokingham borough has been adapted to provide support for children and young people with autism.     

This is known as an extra resource school.

What can I do as a parent/carer to support my child?

Learn about autism and your child / young person

  • Do they process sensory input differently, for example does your child like to be touched, or should you avoid touching  
  • Do they response to visuals, for example a visual timetable or schedule
  • What are your child's favourite things
  • Does your child respond well to a particular movement or activity
  • Does talking help, or is it best to stay quiet

Help your child to communicate:

  • Use visual aids i.e. pictures or objects
  • Apps designed to support communication
  • Develop a way that your child can tell you when to stop doing what you are doing

Useful strategies to help create positive behaviours: 

  • Use first and then or now and next statements
  • Keep your language concrete and simple - say what you want your child to do
  • Use a daily schedule and when necessary take your child back to it to remind them of what is happening during the day
  • Use visual aids or visual scripts
  • Remind your child what they are working for
  • Develop a prompt for your child to ask for a break
  • Asks your child's school or nursery to contact you if there is going to be a change to your child's daily routine i.e. supply teacher, different classroom, special activity or event

 

For further information about strategies and approaches, visit the National Autistic Society website.

Courses for parents and carers

ASSIST is a Wokingham Borough Council family support service. The service delivers the National Autistic Society EarlyBird, EarlyBird Plus and Teen Life parent programmes as well as other training workshops. ASSIST also have drop in sessions and other activities. The team can support parents and practitioners to be solution focused, so what are the issues and then seeking possible solutions from an autism perspective.

For further information on the training and workshops run by the ASSIST service see their directory listing. 

The organisations and services below provide training to parent, carers and professionals. Arrange of courses are available including autism awareness, visual scripts, managing emotions and impact of sensory needs. Visit the organisations websites for a list of their current training courses:

Wokingham Borough Council does not endorse any of the training courses or resources. It is an example of what is available to parents/carers.

Activities for children and young people with autism

Autism friendly film screenings

Many cinema’s host autism friendly film screenings. The aim is to reduce over-stimulation and create a welcoming environment. Some of the adjustments a cinema make is to leave lights on low, turn the sound down, no trailers, freedom to move around in an environment where people understand the needs of a child with autism.

A CEA Card entitles the card holder to 1 free ticket for someone, to accompany a child or young person who is autistic, to see a film at a cinema. Visit the  CEA Card website  to find out how to apply, the eligibility criteria, cost of a card, and which cinemas are participating.

Clubs, activities and events 

Wokingham and its neighbouring boroughs have a number of clubs, activities and events for children and young people with autism. The majority of these clubs are run by local charities.

Visit the websites of these charities to find out what clubs and activities they run and how to join. 

The following activities are run by Wokingham Borough Council for children and young people with additional needs

For more local clubs, activities, soft play centres and events for children with additional needs go to the Local Offer:

Supporting children and young people with SEND to attend mainstream activities     

The Me2 Club enables children and young people with additional needs and disabilities, aged 5 - 19 to attend mainstream activity clubs. For further information, visit the Me2 Club website.

Holiday scheme for those children and young people who can't access mainstream holiday clubs

The Thumbs Up Club is for children age 3 to 19 who are unable to access mainstream settings. They run holiday schemes during the Easter and Summer school holidays and an after school club for Addington school pupils.   

For further information and to book a space visit the Thumbs Up Club website.

Short Breaks Service

If you receive a Direct Payment from Wokingham Borough Council you can use this to pay for short break services that meet the agreed outcomes for your child.

Go to our short breaks search web page to find a short break service.

Sign up to receive regular information about groups and activities

Sign up to the CAN Network (A Wokingham Borough Council information services for families of a child and/or young person with an additional need) to receive regular information about groups and activities in the Wokingham Borough and surrounding area.  You can also apply for a CAN card which can be used as proof of additional need and may lead to concessions at a range of local organisations.    

Go to the Children with Additional needs Network web page to find out how to join the CAN Network .

Berkshire Autism Alert Card

The Berkshire Autism Alert Card scheme is for people living with autism, or a parent or carer, to easily explain autism to others, giving cardholders more confidence to go out and about.

For further details about the scheme and how to apply for a card, visit the Autism Berkshire website.

Support for carers

ASSIST (Autism Spectrum Service for Information, Support and Training)

ASSIST is a Wokingham Borough Council family support service. The team can support parents to be solution focused, what are the issues and then seeking possible solutions from an autism perspective. The service delivers the National Autistic Society EarlyBird, EarlyBird Plus and Teen Life parent programmes as well as other training workshops. ASSIST also have parent and carers drop in sessions and other activities. 

For further information on the ASSIST service see their directory listing.

ASD Family Help

 ASD Family Help offers support and advice through their family liaison worker to parents and carers of a child on the autistic spectrum.

To attend a coffee morning or family fun activities go the  ASD Family Help website for details of when these groups run.

Autism Berkshire

Autism Berkshire offers a range of information and advice to parents, carers and families. 

For details of drop in advice sessions, how to apply for an Autism alert card and becoming a member visit the Autism Berkshire website 

Building for the Future

Building for the Future provides activities and support for children with additional needs and their families, including a Saturday club for children with autism. Go to the Building for the Future website for further information.

SEND Voices Wokingham

SEND Voices Wokingham is an independent group of parent carers of children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).  They act as a collective voice to represent all parents of children and young people up to the age of 25 with any SEND in the Wokingham Borough.              

To find out more about SEND Voices, join their mailing list, or attend a coffee morning visit the SEND Voices Wokingham website.

The Autism Group

The Autism Group offers free parenting support and social groups. Parent groups are led by autism trained team members who also have a child on the autistic spectrum.

To find out when the next support groups and events are happening visit the Autism Group website.

Promise Inclusion

Promise Inclusion provides help, support and advice to individuals with autism, their unpaid carers and their families. They also run a club for siblings aged 8 to 13 years who has a brother or sister on the autistic spectrum.

To find out what activities by going to the Promise Inclusion website.

Local Offer directory

Search the Local Offer directory for further support services and groups for parents of children with autism.

Health support services

Support Hope and Recovery Online Network (SHaRON)

SHaRON provides support and advice for families of young people with autism or awaiting an assessment for autism. The online peer support-based eHealth system which is supported by NHS clinical staff, enable parents, carers and young people to support each other and get expert advice. 

To find out more information go to the SHaRON website

For information on transiting to adult services and other NHS health services, go to the Berkshire NHS Healthcare Children, Young People and Families Services website.

For further health information, advice and support go to our web pages:   

Legal rights information

Where can I get information on legal rights including education matters?

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Information Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS) is a statutory service which is run at ‘arm’s length’ from the Special Educational Needs decision makers at Wokingham Borough Council. It provides free, confidential, impartial advice, guidance and support to:  

  • Parents of children and young people up to the age of 25 with special educational needs and disabilities.  
  • Young people up to the age of 25 with special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Parents with initial concerns about their child through to those with an Education, Health and Care Plan.     

The Autism Education Trust (AET) website provides information and advice for parents and carers on supporting their child to reach their full potential in the education system including advice on exclusion. The website also has an area for children and young people that offers information on a range of subjects. 

The Independent Provider Special Education Advice (IPSEA) offers free and independent legally based information, advice and support to help get the right education for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). 

Visit the IPSEA website for useful factsheets on the rights of parents of a child with SEND, model letters, how to access their advice and tribunal helplines. 

Visit the Council for Disabled Children's website for a guide to legal rights for disabled children. 

Search the Local Offer directory for further educational support services for children and young people with autism and their families.

What to do if you believe you are in a crisis situation

What do we mean by a crisis?    

A crisis is when your child is no longer safe to themselves or others or when there is a need for immediate action or intervention to keep them safe. It is usually a time when a situation is demanding all of your time because they are unable to calm down. Despite your best efforts to calm the situation, your child remains uncontrollable, and there is a likelihood of injury to your child, or others, or the likelihood of serious damage to property.

What can I do?

If your child is in immediate danger to themselves or others call the emergency services on 999.

The Berkshire Integrated Hub

If your child is having suicidal thoughts or extreme mental health difficulties you can contacted The Berkshire Integrated Hub between the hours of 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday.

Phone: 0300 365 1234

Outside of these hours, call NHS 111

Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team (CRHTT)

The Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team (CRHTT) are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can provide advice, assessment, support for all ages and conditions, to help you avoid going into hospital.  

Phone: 0300 365 9999    

Go to hospital

Go to your nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E) department. Some A&E departments have a liaison psychiatry team. To find an A&E department near you visit the NHS website.

General Practitioner (GP) Surgery

Contact your GP surgery; if it is out of hours contact their out of hour's service. Contact details for this service can be found on your GPs website, or provided as part of their answerphone message.

Social Care 

Between 9am to 5pm contact the the duty, triage and assessment team - phone 0118 908 8002

Out of hours service - phone 01344 351 999

Support services

Services that offer support to families or the person having a mental health crisis:

  • YoungMinds Crisis Messenger - offers free 24/7 text support to the person having a mental health crisis. If you need urgent help text YM to 85258.
  • Childline provide support via telephone, email and online. Visit the Childline website for further information or to speak to a counsellor call free on 0800 1111. 
  • The Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day on 116 123 
  • The Mix Crisis Messenger service - text service provides free, 24/7 crisis support for people aged 25 and under. Text THEMIX to 85258
  • Papyrus offers support to people struggling with suicidal thoughts or who is concerned about a person. For further information go to the Papyrus website.
            

Go to the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust website for information on accessing mental health and wellbeing support.

Develop a safety plan

  • Think about when things might go wrong, who or what has helped in the past.    
  • Who supports the family who can be contacted in a crisis. Have their contact details to hand. 
  • Have a plan in place to make sure other people in the house are safe ie siblings, grandparents etc
Planning for my child's future - Wills and Trusts

Mencap have produced a wills and trusts guide to help you plan for your child's financial future. Visit the Mencap website to download the guide and read their frequently asked questions.

Other useful websites: 

Worried about your child being vulnerable or at risk of exploitation

If you are concerned that your child is vulunerable or being exploited the following services can offer advice and support:

Online safety

Search our Local Offer directory for organisations who provide information and advice about staying safe online.

Online sexual abuse of children

If you are worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online you can contact the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

PACE (parents against child exploitation) support parents and carers whose children are being exploited by offenders outside of the family. For further information about child sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation visit the PACE website.

Worried about someone’s behaviour towards a child

If you are worried about someone’s behaviour towards a child, or something you've seen, heard or been told, the following websites provide advice and support: 

Child to Parent Violence (CPV)

The Building Respectful Families (BRF) Project is a service for families who live within the Thames Valley and are affected by Child to Parent Violence (CPV).

Visit the Safe website for further information about the project.

Drug & alcohol

Cranstoun is the Wokingham Borough Substance Misuse Recovery Service, they provide a dedicated service for young people up to the age of 18    

Drug exploitation (County drug lines and cuckooing)

If you are concerned about a drug related crime or think someone may be a victim of drug exploitation visit the Thames Valley Police website for information on how to report it.

Anti Social Behaviour

The Community Trigger allows victims of frequent antisocial behaviour to request a review of their case. Once the Community Trigger process has been requested, the relevant agencies (which may include us, the Police, health providers and/or social housing) will work together to decide whether further action can be taken to resolve the issue. Contact the our contact centre on 0118 974 6000 for further information.

Hate Crime

Stop Hate UK provides independent, confidential and accessible reporting and support for victims, witnesses and third parties. Visit the Stop Hate UK website for further information.

Radicalisation

If you’re worried about someone who is expressing extreme views or hatred, which could lead to them harming themselves or others, call the national police Prevent advice line 0800 011 3764, in confidence, to share your concerns with specially trained officers. Visit the Action Counters Terrorism website for further information including what behaviours to look out for.

Thames Valley Police

For advice on keeping safe and help to understand the law go to the advice and information web page of the Thames Valley Police website.

Support for young people affected by crime

SAFE! provides support to children and families around the Thames Valley who have been affected by crime or abuse through one-to-one and group sessions. Visit the Safe website for further information.

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Page last reviewed: 18/10/2023

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