Autism – Where do we start?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a complex condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour in both children and adults. The CDC (The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that ASD affects around 1 in 54 children, with four times as many boys diagnosed as girls¹. Although there is evidence to suggest that the disorder may be hereditary, no single cause for ASD has been found, making it even more difficult to identify and diagnose.

It is widely accepted that early diagnosis, and therefore receiving the correct support as early as possible, is crucial to enhance the strengths, improve the choices and quality of life of children with autism.

It is also well known that the earlier children are supported, the better the outcome is likely to be, but unless a child displays clear symptoms before they enter the school system, their autism can go unnoticed. Parents may observe that something is amiss from a young age, but are often dismissed by doctors or teachers.

Once autism is suspected, it can take as long as four years to receive an official diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is received, however, it can take time for parents to come to terms with what this actually means to family life, and what support is available to both parents and child.

A secondary data analysis of the UK Millennium Cohort Study² of just over 18,500 children, showed that children who were diagnosed with autism by the time they were five years of age, were much more likely to have experienced health and developmental concerns from as early as nine months old, than children who were not on the spectrum.

The analysis also found that by three years old, these children were more likely to have motor, communication and sensory problems in addition to poor emotional and social health.

Signs to look out for if you suspect your child may be struggling with Autism are:

  • Displaying ‘meltdown’ behaviours

  • Struggling to make friends

  • Showing signs of stress and anxiety

  • Selective ‘mutism’

  • Your child acts differently to their peers

Whilst waiting for a diagnosis, you may find that the following ideas may help your child to feel safe and secure:

  • Create routines at home and at school, and stick to them

  • Give warning in advance if these routines are likely to change

  • Provide visual templates to help understand changes in routines or plans




At Highgate Hill House School we provide the support and reassurance that will ensure you and your child feel nurtured at every stage from your very first contact with us.

Please call 01288 341998 or email us at

And let us help you through what can sometimes feel unchartered territory.