For many parents and carers it can be hard to know where to start if you suspect that a child you care for might have Autism or AHD or both. We have put together a step by step guide to help get you started.
Step 1 – Find out about Autism and ADHD. Many children have both Autism and ADHD.
Here are some good resources to start you off.
Step 2 – Make a list of what you see.
If you think these behaviours or traits sound familiar then make a list of the ways you think your child demonstrates these. Think about the way your child learns, interacts with others, deals with their emotions and manages the demands of everyday life.
Step 3 – Speak to your child’s school or nursery.
You can speak in the first instance to your child’s class teacher or key worker, or to the schools SENCO (the schools special educational needs co-ordinator). They may have observed behaviours which might indicate concerns around Autism and/or ADHD. Some good questions to ask are:
Does my child appear fidgety or have trouble staying seated in class?
Does my child have trouble staying focussed or are they behind in their learning?
Is my child’s work messy, rushed or full of ‘silly mistakes’?
Does my child have trouble with friendships or taking turns?
Does my child seem highly anxious or tired?
How does my child cope with change or transitions?
Is my child very literal or miss jokes or sarcasm?
Does my child play alone or have trouble making and keeping friends?
Is my child easily overwhelmed?
You may have many other questions around behaviours you have observed at home and don’t be afraid to ask. Sometimes these can trigger thoughts from the teacher which are helpful.
Ask your teacher/key worker/SENCO to document any behaviours they have observed or that you have talked about and to provide this information to you.
Step 4 – Think about evidence you could gather from other settings.
For example, you could speak to previous educational settings about their experience of your child. If your child attends any clubs the facilitator might have observed behaviours which will all add to the overall picture of your child’s differences or challenges. Your child may have had previous interactions with health professionals, such as a health visitor. Family and friends may also have noticed differences in the way your child interacts or behaves. This is all useful information.
Step 5 – Go to your GP with the evidence from home and school (and anything else you have) and request a referral to Community Paediatrics at the Child Development Centre for assessment.
You will then be referred to the relevant team for assessment. This can take quite a long time as waiting lists are long, however the NHS are working hard to clear the backlog. ADHD assessments might take around a year, whilst assessment for ASD is often longer. Whilst you are waiting it is a good idea to access support if you haven’t already done so. Locally there are quite a few charities offering support. Including Angels Support Group, ADDvance, Family Lives, Families in Focus and SPACE. Helpful Links can be found here https://angelssupportgroup.org.uk/external-links/
If ASD or ADHD is suspected then it is a good idea to ask school to implement some strategies to support your child whilst awaiting assessment. If school need advice around this they can ask for support from the Communication and Autism SEND Specialist Advisory Service in Herts, your child does not need a diagnosis for school to access them. This link takes you to details on how to contact them. https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/microsites/local-offer/contact-a-send-service.aspx#advice
Remember, you are not alone. Many families will have been through what your family is going through. These families will able to be offer support as well as good advice and hints and tips on things you could try. Angels Support Group is run by parents of children with Autism and ADHD and you can find out more about us all here https://angelssupportgroup.org.uk/meet-the-team/