Local Offer - Understanding Autism

Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental condition that affects how a person communicates and interacts with other people around them.

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong neuro-developmental condition that affects how a person communicates and interacts with other people around them. Autistic people may act in a different way to other people.

What are some signs of autism?

Signs of autism in young children

Signs of autism in young children may include:

  • not responding to their name
  • avoiding eye contact
  • not smiling when you smile at them
  • getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound
  • repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body
  • not talking as much as other children
  • not doing as much pretend play
  • repeating the same phrases

Signs of autism in older children and young people

Signs of autism in older children may include:

  • not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • unusual speech, such as repeating phrases and talking ‘at’ others
  • liking a strict daily routine and getting very upset if it changes
  • having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
  • getting very upset if you ask them to do something
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own
  • taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like "break a leg"
  • finding it hard to say how they feel

How do I get a diagnosis of autism?

If you feel your child or young person is displaying signs of autism, you should speak to their early year’s provider, school or college. If your child does not attend an education setting then you can contact their health visitor (for children aged 0-5 years) or the school nurse (for children over compulsory school age). If required, these professionals will start the process for a referral to the Needs Led Pathway (previously known as GDA) which could result in a referral to the Autism Pathway. You can find out more about the process here.

Adults seeking an autism diagnosis can contact the Community Adult Autism Team. This small specialist community service provide assessments, diagnosis and interventions to adults in Doncaster with autism. More information can be found within this leaflet. 

For information on obtaining a private diagnosis or exercising your Right to Choose, please see our FAQs below.

How can I support someone with autism?

There are lots of ways you can support someone with autism, both before and after diagnosis. Here are our tops tips:

  • Be understanding - autism isn't a choice so try not to get frustrated at the person for things they cannot control
  • Keep your language simple and clear. Speak slowly and calmly. The National Autistic Society have some great tips on communication
  • Use short instructions (a maximum of two at a time if possible). Say the person's name before you say your instruction. Allow them thinking time and then repeat your instruction to check understanding
  • Use the person's preferred method of communication - this may include SignalongMakatonPECS or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
  • Use simple gestures, pointing or pictures to support your verbal communication
  • Use a visual timetable (pictures of the day’s activities) to help them prepare for the day
  • Use zones of regulation such as smiley faces with traffic light colours - these can be used to show how the person is feeling
  • Keep a consistent home and school routine. If you need to deviate from the routine, think about how you can prepare the person beforehand and consider what you can do to support them
  • Keep home-school communications open and raise any concerns as soon as possible so they can be resolved quickly
  • Seek out support from other parent/carers with SEND children. Doncaster Parents Voice is the Parent Carer Forum in Doncaster and their friendly team would love to welcome you

Remember: Everyone with autism is different. What works for one person may not work for another. It's important to find out what works for a specific individual rather than assuming what will work, based on your knowledge and interactions with other autistic people.

If you have a child with autism, you can also support them by supporting yourself. This may include:

  • Giving yourself time for yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup so it's important to look after yourself too
  • Speaking with other parent carers - knowing you're not alone helps tremendously and it you may also get ideas on things you're struggling with
  • Ask for a Parent Carer Needs Assessment - there's help available for parent carers. Ask for assessment to see what support might be available for your family

What services are available to support?

Getting the right professional support is also crucial to supporting children and young people with autism. This may mean involving services to support your child's education, home life or both. 

If your child is aged 5 or under, you can speak with your health visitor to see what support is available. If your child attends an early years provision, you can also speak with their provider. The early years provider may contact the Early Years Inclusion Team (EYIT) to support your child further. You can find out more about support for younger children on our Early Years webpages.

If your child is compulsory school age or over, you can speak to their class teacher to find out what support you can access. The SENCO at your child's setting may request support from ASCETS. Your family also may be supported by social care services such as Early Help, Short Breaks, etc.

  • Contact Doncaster Autism Service - your child doesn't need a diagnosis for you to access this support and they can provide you with lots of helpful information too
  • Contact with Doncaster SENDIAS if you need information, advice or support

Doncaster Autism Service (DAS)

Doncaster Autism Service (DAS) is a brand new service, aiming to support autistic individuals of all ages, along with their families and carers. DAS is a collaboration between NHS South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board, Doncaster Council (ASCETS and EPS), Doncaster Partnership for Carers (DPC) and Doncaster Parent Voice (DPV).

Whilst delivering a wide range of support, activities and events, they also offer information, advice, guidance, and signposting to other specialist services and organisations. DAS is unique in that it is the only service in Doncaster that offers an all age offer for pre and post diagnostic support.

Through collaboration with the ASCETS team, DAS has developed a post-diagnostic support pathway for newly-diagnosed adults, children and young people and their families featuring 1:1 support sessions and group workshops covering a wide variety of topics . They are hoping to extend this offer from September 2024 to include individuals with historic diagnoses.

As part of their community based activities and events they offer:

  • Social groups and social events for parents, young people and adults
  • Health and wellbeing therapies 
  • Telephone befriending 
  • Benefits advice 
  • Counselling for parent /carers and autistic adults
  • Group activities for children and young people and adults
  • Forums to make people’s voices heard 
  • Art therapy
  • Games club
  • Massage therapies

Over the next few years, DAS will continue to expand the range of services on offer and increase its reach among autistic individuals of all ages. They are also working hard to strengthen links with local providers and community groups.

Contact DAS

DAS Post-Diagnostic Support
Download (214KB - PDF)

Early Years Inclusion Team (EYIT)

The Early Years Inclusion Team (EYIT) works with private, voluntary and independent early years settings and maintained nurseries to support children with special educational needs and disabilities. This includes children who may have a diagnosis of autism or social communication needs. 

Find out more about the EYIT.

Autism and Social Communication Education and Training Service (ASCETS)

ASCETS work with schools, children and young people and their families to support the improvement of learning outcomes, particularly where a child or young person has an autism diagnosis or social communication needs.

ASCETS work primarily with children from the age of 5 years old when they start attending F2 / Reception, up to the age of 25 when young people could still be accessing college. This work is focused on the ways in which we can contribute to the assessment, planning, delivery and review of pupils’ achievements and progress, particularly through SEN support plans or other targeted plans run by schools with pupils and families.

The service supports schools in developing robust provision for pupils with autism and social communication difficulties through the delivery of external training (ASCETS Autism Essentials) and bespoke training in school.

ASCETS consists of specialist teachers and specialist support officers whose work is mainly focused through the ways they can contribute to the support plans run by schools. Please talk to your school’s SENCO about how the ASCETS team might become involved in contributing to your child’s planned support to improve learning outcomes.

Doncaster SENDIAS 

Doncaster SENDIAS provide information, advice and support to children and young people who have SEND, and their families.
The Local Offer contains a wide range of information which you should find helpful. Please browse the website to find other services, resources and support for you child.

Behavioural support for children with autism

If your child has a diagnosis of ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), if you waiting for an assessment or would just like further information about ASD, then you can seek support from Doncaster Autism Service (DAS).

Some autistic children and young people may present with behaviours that are difficult for adults to manage. You may hear people refer to this as meltdowns or shutdowns.

As a parent or adult supporting the young person, it is important to recognise that this isn't chosen behaviour. There are many reasons that a child or young person may present behaviours that you find difficult to manage.

These could include a reaction to an intense and overwhelming situation the child or young person has experienced, a response to demands that have been put on them throughout the day, sensory sensitivities or as a result of masking, to name just a few. It helps if you try to unpick the behaviours and identify any triggers.

DAS hold regular coffee breaks for parents and carers. The coffee breaks give you a chance to meet other families in similar situations and gives you the opportunity to share your experiences and learn from the experiences of others.

DAS also offer workshops on different aspects of autism which will support your understanding and awareness and offer strategies that you can implement at home. We very much believe in identifying the strengths a child or young person displays then focus on areas they may find difficult.

We offer an amazing workshop on “Managing behaviours that challenge “ which is delivered by an autistic adult, Reece Coker. His lived experience and resilience is thought provoking and parents have commented on how much they learned from him, how much hope it gave them for the future and how they were inspired by his workshop.

DAS also offer 1:1 post diagnostic sessions once a child or young person has received an ASD diagnosis.

The post-diagnostic support programme is a series of 1:1 and group workshops giving the opportunity for newly diagnosed autistic children and young people to learn more about their diagnosis, what this may mean for them, and how to access support. Again, it is strength based, focusing on what a child or young person can do then identifying areas they may find difficult or challenging.

1:1 sessions are tailored to the individual, covering social communication, social interaction, social imagination and sensory differences. We focus on future planning and identify strategies that empower the individual to better navigate their world.

Frequently asked questions

How is autism diagnosed?

To meet diagnostic criteria for ASD according to DSM-5, a child must have:

  • Persistent deficits in each of the three areas of social communication and social interaction areas below:
    • Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.
    • Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
    • Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.
  • and at least two of the four types of restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior listed below:
    • Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypes, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).
    • Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat same food every day).
    • Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).
    • Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g. apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

The examples above are for are illustrative, not exhaustive.

Diagnostic criteria - a guide for all audiences

Does my child need a diagnosis to receive SEND support? 

No. Once a special educational need has been identified, your child's setting should work to meet this need without delay. You can find out more about this on our support for learning webpages.

How can I exercise my Right to Choose?

If your GP needs to refer you for a physical or mental health condition, in most cases you have a legal right to choose which hospital or service you go to. This includes NHS and many private hospitals that provide services to the NHS. You may also choose your clinical team led by a consultant or named healthcare professional.

If you’re referred for consultant-led treatment, or to a mental health professional, you can:

  • decide which provider you would like to receive care from as an outpatient
  • choose the clinical team who will be in charge of your care within that provider organisation

These choices apply to both physical and mental health, but only apply at the point of referral (from your GP, dentist or optometrist) to providers that have an NHS contract to provide the service you need.

For a service to be available for you to choose, for physical health referrals, the service must be led by a consultant who has overall responsibility and in mental health the service must be led by a consultant or mental health professional. Normally the same provider you have chosen for your first outpatient appointment will also go on to provide the rest of your treatment. You can find more information on NHS services for physical and mental health on the NHS website. 

Can I/my child get a private diagnosis for autism? 

The NHS in the UK generally accepts private autism assessments; however, it's important to note that not all assessments may be accepted. All private assessment must adhere to the same requirements and standards for diagnosing set out by the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent organisation responsible for driving improvement and excellence in the health and social care system in England Wales. NICE clinical guideline CG128 “Autism spectrum disorder in under 19s: recognition, referral and diagnosis” is the best practice guideline used by the NHS for recognising and diagnosing autism spectrum disorder in children and young people from birth up to 19 years.

The assessment of autism should not be conducted by a professional working in isolation, NICE guidance states that the assessment is delivered by a core team which must include: 

  • paediatrician and/or child and adolescent psychiatrist
  • speech and language therapist
  • psychologist with training and experience in working with autistic children and young people.

Other professionals may also contribute to the assessment, these include, an occupational therapist, a specialist health visitor or nurse, specialist teacher or social worker.

Each of the professionals involved in the assessment must be registered with their regulatory body, for paediatricians and child and adolescent psychiatrists this is the General Medical Council and for Speech and language therapist and clinical psychologists it is The Health and Care Professions Councils.


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Last updated: 21 June 2024 15:55:50


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