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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Information about Autism Spectrum Disorders and support organisations for people with Autism and their families.            

Information about Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how people communicate and interact with others. No two people with autism are the same; each has their own unique personality and character and each varies in the extent to which they see, hear and experience the world differently from people without autism.

It is estimated that just over 1 in every 100 people in the UK has autism. More boys and men are diagnosed with autism than girls and women but it's now thought girls and women may manage the condition differently and may therefore be underdiagnosed.

People with autism have difficulties with communication and social interaction, social imagination, flexibility of thought and sensory processing. However, many other children and young people also have difficulty in one or more of these areas.

Many children and young people with autism experience high levels of academic and work-related success. Among many positive characteristics, people with autism often have high levels of persistence and focus, good attention to detail and high self-expectations.

A range of information about Autism and support for people with Autism and their families can be found on the NHS website, Ambitious about Autism and the National Autistic Society website. You can also view this video from the National Autistic Society titled `What is Autism'.

National support organisations

Local support organisations

Support in educational settings for ASD

Education settings are expected to respond to their children and young people according to the needs they present, rather than to a diagnosis. This response will be a ‘Graduated Response’ as outlined in the SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) Code of Practice.

  • The needs of many children and young people with autism are met through high quality teaching (also known as `Quality First Teaching’) and support at ‘Universal Support Level’
  • Children and young people who require more focused, targeted help will be supported at ‘SEND Support Level’
  • A few students whose needs are complex, severe and long term and which cannot be met from within the resources of the school will require support at a ‘Statutory Level’ and these will be issued with an Education, Health and Care Plan. A few of these students may require support from, or in, specialist settings.

At each stage, settings should adopt a cyclical model of intensifying support for pupils consisting of ‘assess, plan, do, review’ cycles of support.

What should I do if I think my child needs an assessment?

If you have ongoing concerns about your child’s development or think your child needs an assessment for an autistic spectrum disorder, please contact the following people

Pre-school / Early Years: contact your health visitor or early years setting to share your concerns.

School age: 

  • If in an educational setting – contact the setting’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO)
  • If not in an educational setting – contact the child’s GP

Post 16:

  • If in an educational setting – contact the setting’s Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO)
  • If not in an educational setting – contact the young person’s GP 

The health visitor, SENCO or GP will:

  • discuss your concerns with you
  • follow a graduated response and assess, plan, do, review cycle
  • help you to gather appropriate evidence
  • provide you with information about the Development and Behaviour Pathway and if appropriate, and with your consent, refer to the Development and Behaviour Pathway

NHS Dorset - All Age Autism Review information

Resources and further information