What is autism?
Autism is a disability that affects how people communicate and relate to other people. It is not a disability that goes, it is lifelong, and people can struggle to come to terms with it. It also affects the way they see the world.
What should I do if a parent asks me if their child has autism?
You cannot diagnose their child as you are not qualified to answer the question. You should advise them to go to their GP or health visitor if they expect anything. It is always best to get help from professionals.
What can I do to identify children who may have autism?
You must have a good knowledge of typical child development, and therefore should complete regular observations and assessments of children. This will highlight any area of development that is a possible cause for concern. The Every Child a Talker (ECAT) monitoring tool can be useful, as well as the EYFS document.
It is essential to make sure you do not jump to conclusions, and you must be aware of a child’s previous experiences. The following may give you cause for concern but do not panic, or self-diagnoses; you must see a GP for further support.
- start losing skills i.e. they used to speak and interact, and now they don’t
- don’t appear to hear what’s being said or don’t respond as you’d expect
- repeat back what you say, (echolalia) beyond an age when you wouldn’t expect this
- become distressed by some noises
- have extreme reactions to some textures or food, changes in routine or show repetitive movements
- show delayed or no pretend play
The Autism Inclusion Development programme provides lots of useful information. They have some clips to show outsiders what autistic people see the world like. Remember, you need to work in partnership with parents. Your role is to find a way to support the parents and child with the help of other colleagues and outside professionals.