Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental spectrum condition. The National Autistic Society current official estimation is that more than 1 in a 100 people in the UK are on the spectrum. However, the NAS and other Autism specialists feel that is this is better placed at more than 1 in 88. It can affect anybody, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or socioeconomic background.
Autistic traits include persistent challenges with social communication and interaction, restricted and repetitive behaviours and sensitivity to sensory processing. Children and young people might experience pathological demand avoidance (PDA) which is connected to Autism. There is a wide range of cognitive, social and communicative ability within the autism spectrum which can include children with profound learning difficulties, with little or no verbal communication through to those with average or high levels of functioning.
It is also common for people on the spectrum to have co-occurring conditions such as learning difficulties, mental health conditions, ADHD and other disorders.
How to identify need
Children and young people with autism may show behaviours and characteristics including, but not limited to:
- rigidity and flexibility of thought, resistance to change, high levels of anxiety;
- ritualistic/repetitive behaviours, stereotypical mannerisms and obsessive interest in specific items or information;
- speech, language and communication needs;
- developmental coordination difficulties and/or delay in motor skills;
- sensory sensitivities which affect their response and ability to understand and make sense of their world;
- lack of skill in interacting with others;
- little understanding of the abstract uses of language, e.g. humour;
- lack of ability to infer what others are thinking and experiencing;
- difference in emotional reactions to environmental cues;
- difficulty with thinking and play which is creative, imaginative and social;
- disrupted or unusual sleep patterns.
There are a wide variety of other traits and characteristics, which may indicate that an individual has autism. These can present differently dependent on the child or young person.
How to support in schools and settings
We would expect in the first instance that schools and settings to use the graduated approach in schools, particularly the use of Assess, Plan, Do and Review and use quality first teaching.
There are a range of strategies and interventions you can use in schools and settings to support and help children and young people on the spectrum. The following checklist is of interventions and approaches to use in the settings and schools to ensure best practice;
- Does the child or young person have the opportunity to use visual resources such as time tables, pictures or symbols?
- Has the child or young person been given the opportunity for a sensory or self-regulation break?
- Has the curriculum been adapted for the individual?
- Does the curriculum overlap with the strengths of the individual?
- Are resources accessible for the child or young person?
- Does the child or young person know where to find resources and been shown where they are?
- Are they clearly labelled with visuals?
- Are the colours appropriate for the child or young person regarding sensory input?
- Does the child or young person have the opportunity to interact with peers?
- Does the child or young person know how to make friends and maintain friendships?
- Does the child or young person know how to cope with peer pressure?
- Does the child or young person show signs of loneliness and withdrawal?
- Has the child or young person been assessed for communication needs?
- Does the child or young person show signs of struggling or little interaction with peers and has this been feedback to the SENCo?
- Have staff modelled for the child or young person how to use ‘First/Then’ to help structure tasks?
- Has the child been taught a range of strategies to help with emotional regulation (if this applies and is appropriate)?
- Is the child showing signs of low mood?
- Does the child have sleep issues?
- Does the child and adults working with them know and understand their sensory needs?
- Has this been catered for at school or in settings?
- Has the child or young person been provided appropriate resources to help manage sensory needs?
All children are unique and should you require further support where interventions are not effective or appropriate for the child, please see below for the next steps.
How to access additional support
When to refer
When a child is referred, with parental consent, it should be made to the Inclusive Education Service (IES). The Request for Involvement form can be found on the CYPS website at http://cyps.northyorks.gov.uk/special-educational-needs-disabilities on the IES landing page. The guidance for a RFI is on page 22 on the appendix I: SPA Frequently Asked Questions (in the SEND: Inclusive Education Service Core and Extended Offer).
How will the Communication and Interaction team help?
The communication and interaction team is consists of highly specialised and experienced professionals including the Lead for Communication and Interaction, autism consultant, consultant for Speech, Language and Communication Needs (SLCN), specialist teachers and specialist practitioners. We support children and young people, as well as other professionals working with them, with communication and interaction needs who may or may not have a diagnosis.
The team delivers a wide range of assessments and interventions, in order to support the setting to best meet the needs of the child. In addition to this, the team offers training for schools and parents. This includes autism awareness, sensory and emotional regulation, anxiety, autism and girls, behaviour management, pathological demand avoidance (PDA), intensive interaction, visual learning and lego therapy. We are also licensed to deliver Barnardo’s Cygnet parenting courses.
Please note that support through the Inclusive Education Service is allocated to the team within the service that can best meet the needs of the child at that point. This may mean that whilst a child has autism or social communication issues the referral information indicates that a different team might be the best to achieve the desired outcome.
All people with autism have access to universal health services, for example GP, Healthy Child practitioners and there will be some who will require access to more specialist services.
A child who presents with autistic traits might be involved with a range of professionals outside of a learning environment. These will include the following professionals;
- CAHMs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Teams) – this is for children who have co-occurring mental health needs and/or mental health needs are their secondary need.
- Children’s Centres
- Clinical Psychologist
- Community Children’s Nurse, Community Psychiatric Nurse and Learning
- Counsellors and psychotherapists
- Early Years Advisory and Portage Team (NYCC)
- Educational Psychologist
- SENDIASS (NYCC)
- General Practitioner (GP)
- Health Visitor
- Healthy Child Team
- Occupational Therapist
- Psychiatrist/Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
- Social Worker
- Speech and Language Therapist
For further information about the roles and responsibilities of other professionals, please look on the local offer for the Autism Parent Pack, which discusses this in more detail. This might make it helpful as a point of reference for parents/carers.
The following (see below) lists several websites and strategy documents relating to Autism that may be useful.
National Autism Society resources include the following;
National Autism Society - https://www.autism.org.uk/
The main link for all resources for teachers can be found at https://www.autism.org.uk/professionals/teachers.aspx.
My world resources
This is resources designed for teachers to help understand autistic pupils in their classroom. Once you sign up, you receive practical advice and tips to support autistic pupils and access to many resources, including newsletters. The link is https://www.autism.org.uk/professionals/teachers/myworldhub.aspx.
Please find the sign up button at the bottom of the page.
Autism Education Trust (AET)
The AET has plenty of resources available online for free using the following links below;
*Please be aware that the Autism Strategy by the Department for Health is undergoing a consultation at the time of writing and please to refer to the Department for Health website for updates on the Autism strategy. The link to access is https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/think-autism-an-update-to-the-government-adult-autism-strategy.
Additional online resources
How to Talk to Kids About Autism - http://www.mrsspeechiep.com/
Visual resources - https://visuals.autism.net/
Sensory supports for the Classroom - http://www.nclexquiz.com/sensory-supports-classroom-freebie/
Resources for parents with children under the age of 5 - https://babynavigator.com/magic/
An article explaining what the Spectrum is and how misconceptions of the spectrum persevere -
We would like to acknowledge University of Leeds (2018) as the source of producing the following infograph, which might be helpful for autistic children and young people.
University of Leeds 2018 Infograph on positive autism traits (Opens Word document)
If you believe there is information that should be added to this webpage, please contact Inclusive Education Service.
Last updated: May 2019