Many countries provide services to help autistic children and young people. These services may be offered by government agencies, by commercial agencies, by not-for-profit agencies or even by informal support networks.
In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has made recommendations about the delivery of public care services to children and young people on the autism spectrum.
This includes a recommendation that local services should work with and support the families of children and young people on the autism spectrum. It also recommends that local services should be coordinated by a local autism multi-agency strategy group. For details of your local strategy group please contact your local council.
The following section provides a very brief overview of some of the key services offered to autistic children and young people in the UK. However the fact that a service is described does not necessarily mean that you will be entitled to it nor does it mean that it will be easy to get.
For details of other services please see Organisations and websites about children and young people with autism and Autism Services Directory (Open in New Window) published by the National Autistic Society.
If you suspect your child has autism you should contact your GP/health visitor or the special education needs coordinator (SENCO) in your child's school. You may then be referred onto a specialist diagnostic service which will make a formal assessment of your child. Alternatively you can contact an independent diagnostic service, although you will have to pay for this and the diagnosis may not be accepted by some local authorities.
If your child receives a formal diagnosis of autism, the diagnostic team should share information from the assessment with your child's GP and, if you agree, with other professions such as your child's school or social services if appropriate, to help them offer you the support you need
More information about Diagnosis of Autism
Your local authority has a duty to make appropriate provision to meet the needs of pre-school children determined to have additional support needs, including children with autism. That provision varies enormously between individual authorities but may include services run by the authority, such as Portage, or buy-in of services from commercial or not-for-profit organisations.
Some commercial or not-for-profit organisations also offer pre-school educational services -such as Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention (commonly known as ABA), the Hanen More than Words program or the NAS EarlyBird Programme
Your local authority only has a duty to provide an 'adequate' education for your child - it does not have to provide the best education. However, they are obliged to offer you information about schools which are available locally and to explain their decision about where to place your child if necessary. Some commercial or not-for-profit organisations also run schools.
There are various types of school, although not all these types of school will necessarily be available in your local area. These include mainstream schools; a base or unit within a mainstream school; special schools; residential schools; independent or non-maintained schools including academies and free schools.
You can of course home-school your child i.e. teach him or her yourself in your own home, if you wish.
If you are planning to attend college or university you should contact the disability support staff or co-ordinator at the college or university as early as possible so that they can put the appropriate support in place.
For more information about educational services for autistic children and young people please see Publications on or for Children and Young People on the Autism Spectrum
Your local primary health care trust has a duty to provide a range of health/therapeutic services to those who need them including children and young people with autism. Those services may include speech and language therapy (speech pathology), occupational therapy, physiotherapy etc.
Your local authority may offer a range of home-based social services to children and young people with autism. These services include the provision of practical assistance in the home, home adaptations, access to recreational/educational facilities, holidays, and assistance in travelling to community-based care services.
There are numerous organisations which can offer advice and advocacy, which may help you get the services to which you are entitled.
As a parents or carer of children and young people with autism you may be entitled to one or more benefits such as Carer's Allowance, Housing and Council Tax Benefit, and Income Support.
For more information about benefits please visit the benefits section of the Gov UK website (Open in New Window) or see Publications on or for Children and Young People on the Autism Spectrum
There are numerous other services available to children and young people on the autism spectrum inc. day services, holiday services, products etc.
There are numerous local support groups and networks throughout the UK providing a range of help. These include befriending/mentoring groups, social skills groups and local branches of national charities, such as the National Autistic Society.