If you suspect your child (or yourself) features somewhere on the autism spectrum, your first port of call is your GP. Your GP will ask a few questions to ascertain whether your child fits some broad criteria and, subject to these responses, will refer you to a specialist. Then you can start getting the help you need. Here’s how the process will work.
Your GP or health visitor will do preliminary screening before any referral. Questions will concern your child’s behaviour. For instance, does your child act in a repetitive way or in a way that is dangerous to themselves or others? Do they resist change or have difficulties with social interaction? Make a list of behaviours that you think are relevant. For small children, they may carry out the CHAT (Checklist for Autism in Toddlers). Here is a symptom checklist you can use to see if your child shows any symptoms.
Your child will then be referred to a psychiatrist or a group of professionals including a psychiatrist, a speech and language therapist and a specialist psychologist. There is however, no set procedure. Be aware that getting the referral may take several months.
If your child is of school age, talk to the special needs department. They can help with getting a diagnosis. If your child goes on to be diagnosed, they will assist in getting your child the help they need to succeed in the classroom.
Depending on the severity of the autism, regular treatment may be required. This will only happen if the condition is causing tangible problems. High functioning autism will rarely be referred for treatment. Treatment can take the form of medication and psychological therapy. Be aware that there is no set treatment for autism, only treatment for specific issues stemming from it. Examples include depression, ADHD, sleeping disorders and anxiety. A common psychological treatment is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Points to Consider
Asperger’s no Longer Exists as a diagnosis on the NHS
Asperger’s is no longer given as a diagnosis. This form of high functioning autism is now regarded as just that, without any particular name. It is a mild form of autism and features on the lower end of the autistic spectrum. The new diagnosis system is more stringent, meaning many people previously diagnosed with Asperger’s would not be diagnosed with it today. This is proving quite controversial.
Help is extended to Families
Dealing with a child who has autism can be tough on parents. There is help available for Mums and Dads, though. Help includes better understanding your child’s behaviour and developing strategies to make home life workable. A good starting point is the Early Bird Program.
Autism is Often a Gift
Whilst challenging, Autism is in many ways a gift. People on the autism spectrum are often far more honest and intelligent than the average person. Autism is regularly linked to genius. There are many careers suitable for people on the autistic spectrum. The National Autistic Society runs training courses to help prepare young adults for the work place. Check them out here.
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Swimming is a fantastic inclusive activity to do with children with special needs. It’s a great sensory experience that is good fun and has positive benefits for both physical and mental health. It is also an activity that can be done all year round and doesn’t have to be weather dependent (depending on where you choose to swim!).