Your child's brain is unique to them and they will have unique skills, abilities, and needs.
An autistic child has a different way of understanding and relating to other people and the world around them. Autism is a lifelong condition. It affects different children in different ways.
Remember that these differences aren’t always negative. Your autistic child might need support to thrive but thrive they can!
You may notice some early signs of autism in the preschool years.
Signs and symptoms must be present across different settings. For example at home, nursery, playgroup and with other family members.
Autistic children have a combination of different traits which means that no two children are the same. These can look different in girls and boys.
If you have an autistic child then you may notice a combination of some or all of the following:
It's important to look for your child's strengths. These may include:
If you're not very worried about your child then watching and waiting for a bit longer may be suggested. During this time you, your family and your childcare setting can monitor your child's behaviour and development.
Waiting times for an autsim assessment can be long. While you are on the waiting list, you can still get support for your child.
Most services will work with your child and support you whether or not they have a diagnosis.
Each area is different. Your health visitor or GP can refer your child for assessment. Preschool children will often be assessed by a paediatrician in the Child Development Service. Paediatricians will consider if there are any other health or development issues before recommending a full assessment for autism.
Speak to your GP urgently if your child's development is going backwards and they are losing language or skills.
Timetables and calendars with pictures can be really helpful. Write or draw what your child can expect to happen that day and the order of events such as nursery, tea time and bed time. Refer to it frequently.
Have a daily routine to provide structure to the day. Make sure you have a set morning routine, meal routine, bedtime routine. This provides security and reduces anxiety.
If plans change let your child know in advance. Discuss what will happen instead and change it on their calendar.
Starting and finishing activities can cause difficulties. Think of ways to clearly indicate the beginning or end of something. Consider using timers to count down time to something finishing, so your child is prepared.
Waiting and unstructured time can be difficult for autistic children. When possible, plan in advance before going out for example, take a book to a doctor’s appointment.
The video below was suggested by a group with lived experience as they could relate to it after getting an autism diagnosis.
NICE guidlines on When to suspect autism spectrum disorder in a preschool child?
National Autistic Society advice on: Eating, Toileting, Stimming, Meltdowns and Sleep
Healthier Together advice on: Toilet Training, Tantrums and Fussy Eating
BBC Tiny Happy People. Speech and language delays: Learning about your child and finding ways to communicate
The Pablo cartoon series is about a 5 year old autistic boy. Watch the series on CBeebies.
Visit our Support for neurodivergent children and their families page for a full list of support available.
Pablo and the Noisy Party by Andrew Brenner and Sumita Majumdar
Through the Eyes of Me by Jon Roberts
I See Things Differently by Pat Thomas
Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm
Autism: How to raise a happy autistic child by Jessie Hewitson