Autism is a lifelong condition that affects the way a person interacts with the world and those around them.
It can be very frightening to worry that your child has autism. If you are concerned, make an appointment with your GP who will refer to you a community paediatrician for assessment for your child.
Following are some ‘early warning signs’ of autism in pre-school children. Every child is different, and some may show different signs.
- Having no spoken words by the age of 16 months
- Rigid food preferences / limited diet
- Lack of interest in ‘joint attention’ – playing games with adults, such as peekaboo
- Fails to point at objects to get adult attention
- Resists being held
- Avoids eye contact
- May have no awareness of others around them
- Reacts strongly to loud noises or bright lights
This is a very small sampling of the kinds of behaviours that may indicate autism in a child. The NHS has an excellent page on autism symptoms in different ages.
If you are concerned that your child may have autism, it is important to pursue an assessment so that your child may get appropriate care.
The NHS holds responsibility for diagnosing autism.
If your child is aged 0-5
If you have concerns about your child’s development, speak to your health visitor, GP or nursery staff (if applicable). The benefit of seeking advice from a health visitor is that they will come to your home and take a detailed family and developmental assessment and help you to understand the next steps, usually referral to a paediatrician and a speech and language therapist if your child has a language delay.
If your child is 5-16
If your child is school aged, a health visitor, school nurse, GP or teacher can refer you to the Children’s Community Health Partnership (CCHP), which is part of the NHS.
The diagnosis process
Currently, there is not one set path for autism diagnosis in Bristol or South Gloucester (though this is set to change in 2017. The process you may go through could be over several weeks or you could be referred to the Autism Spectrum Assessment Team (ASAT), which provides a ‘fast track’ diagnosis in one day. Whichever route you are put on, a team of specialists will assess your child in order to make a decision about whether he or she has autism.
The NHS CCG that serves Bristol and South Gloucester are currently working on a singular pathway to autism diagnosis. They will be consulting and then commissioning services and it is planned that this new route will roll out in 2017.
See also our page on What is Autism for more useful information.
The main thing to remember if you are worried is to not panic (easier said than done, we know). You are in the right place to find help and support.