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Help if your child has been diagnosed with Autism

Help If Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Autism Panel


What is autism?

Autistic people may act differently from other people

Autistic people may:

  • find it hard to communicate and interact with other people
  • find it hard to understand how other people think or feel
  • find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable
  • get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events
  • take longer to understand information
  • do or think the same things over and over

If you think you or your child may be autistic, get advice about the signs of autism.

Autism is not an illness

Being autistic does not mean you have an illness or disease. It means your brain works differently from other people.

It's something you're born with. Signs of autism might be noticed when you're very young, or not until you're older.

If you're autistic, you're autistic your whole life.

Autism is not a medical condition with treatments or a "cure". But some people need support to help them with certain things.

Signs of autism in children

Signs of autism in young children 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

Autism in older children

Signs of autism in older children 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

Autism in girls and boys

Autism can sometimes be different in girls and boys.

Autistic girls may:

  • hide some signs of autism by copying how other children behave and play
  • withdraw in situations they find difficult
  • appear to cope better with social situations
  • show fewer signs of repetitive behaviours

This means autism can be harder to spot in girls.

Get advice if:

  • you think your child might be autistic

You could speak to:

  • a GP
  • a health visitor (for children under 5)
  • any other health professional your child sees, such as another doctor or therapist
  • special educational needs (SENCO) staff at your child's school

Getting diagnosed can help your child get any extra support they might need.


Signs of autism in adults

Common signs of autism in adults include:

  • finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling
  • getting very anxious about social situations
  • finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own
  • seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to
  • finding it hard to say how you feel
  • taking things very literally - for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like "break a leg"
  • having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes

Other signs of autism

You may also have other signs, like:

  • not understanding social "rules", such as not talking over people
  • avoiding eye contact
  • getting too close to other people, or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you
  • noticing small details, patterns smells or sounds that others do not
  • having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities
  • liking to plan things carefully before doing them

Autism in women and men

Autism can sometimes be different in women and men.

Autistic women may:

  • have learned to hide signs of autism to 'fit in' - by copying people who don't have autism
  • be quieter and hide their feelings
  • appear to cope better with social situations
  • show fewer signs of repetitive behaviours

This means it can be harder to tell you're autistic if you're a woman.

See a GP if:

  • you think you may be autistic

If you already see a health professional, such as another doctor or therapist, you could speak to them instead.

Getting diagnosed can help you get any extra support you might need.


Autism guidance from the NHS

Who can help me in Plymouth?

There are several organisations and teams in Plymouth that can provide information and support at different stages of your child's development.

Child Development Centre (CDC)

The Child Development Centre can carry out a Speech and Language assessment of children and young people who may have autism.

For children who have not yet reached school age this is carried out through attendance at the specialist nursery, and for young people who have started school this will involve meeting with the assessment team which includes an assessment with an Education Psychologist.

The assessments are coordinated by a Specialist Nurse, which each young person's care being overseen by a Paediatrician and any referrals to other services may be made if appropriate. The Specialist Nurse may provide additional support for a young person and their family at any stage through this process, offering guidance and strategies to respond to difficulties around behaviour, social skills, sleeping, continence and communication. Children and young people are usually seen within a clinic setting, although may also be seen at school with other professionals or as part of a planned meeting.

Clinical Psychology Service

The Clinical Psychology Service can provide short periods of intervention for young people who do receive an ASD diagnosis, usually addressing a specific difficulty such as anxiety.

Such difficulties might include:

  • Low mood or worry
  • The effects of a bad life event
  • Treatment or investigation in the hospital
  • Adapting to chronic illness, pain or side effects of treatment
  • Supporting a decision about treatment

If additional mental health needs are identified in the assessment, then the most appropriate service is also offered. This is usually offered through the CAMHS Service and can range from individual therapy, and sensory intervention to family therapy depending on the assessed need. A drop-in service once a month is also available to families. 

Communication Interaction Team

The Communication Interaction Team support children and young people's language and communication needs, their parents and teachers.

For more information about what to do if your child has autism, please email or call 01752 668000.

Frequently asked questions

Where can I find information on understanding autism?

Organisations like the National Autistic Society offer detailed information explaining autism. Locally Plymouth's Autism Spectrum Support group can also help support you. Your GP can recommend resources too.

What types of therapies are available locally?

Common therapies like occupational therapy, speech therapy and applied behaviour analysis (ABA) are available through Livewell Southwest NHS and Plymouth's Child Development Centre. Discuss options with your paediatrician.

Are there autism support groups I can join in Plymouth?

Yes, groups like Plymouth Autism Spectrum Support, Autism Adventures Plymouth and Piece of the Puzzle provide community support and social activities. Connecting with local parents facing similar challenges provides solidarity.

How do I get an autism diagnosis for my child in Plymouth?

Raise initial concerns with your GP and request a referral to the Child Development Centre assessment team. Keep notes on behaviours ahead of appointments. The multi-disciplinary team will assess your child from all angles.

What autism provisions are Plymouth schools required to provide?

Schools must provide tailored support documented in an EHC Plan like visual aids, social skills lessons and quiet breakout spaces.

Are there special needs nurseries suitable for my child in Plymouth?

Yes, Plymouth has special nurseries tailored to supporting children with autism through play-based programs, sensory rooms and specialist staff.

What disability benefits can I claim?

Common benefits include Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for those under 16 and Personal Independence Payment (PIP) over 16 to assist with extra costs. Carer's Allowance helps if you provide substantial care.

Where can my child access autism-friendly activities in Plymouth?

Groups like Argyle Community Trust and Plymouth Gateway Trust run tailored sports, youth clubs and holiday schemes in Plymouth. Look locally for adapted music, drama and social meet-ups welcoming children with autism.

How do I prepare my child for changes living in Plymouth?

Visual supports, advance notice of schedule changes, and practising new routes/journeys help with transition anxiety. Maintain familiarity in your child's bedroom during home or school moves.

Are there suitable post-16 college options in Plymouth?

Yes, Plymouth's City College and others offer tailored study programs, life skills, job training and learning support for students with autism transitioning into adulthood.



Plymouth's Local Offer is organised into four main categories covering the following age ranges:

 Plymouth Local Offer homepage



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