Advice and signposting
Neurodiversity is not a diagnosis and recognising neurodiversity in an individual does not therefore need a diagnostic assessment. Neurodiversity is a term that recognises people experience and respond to the world around them in different ways. This different perspective can lead to new ideas, scientific breakthroughs and creativity or unique skillsets. Individuals may also have aspects of life they find more challenging for which they require additional support at school and different approaches to parenting and behaviour management.
Neurodiversity includes conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, language disorder, coordination disorder, tourette syndrome, and learning disabilities with many people having features associated with a range of neurodiverse conditions. Everyone is unique and has different needs, skills, and abilities.
See the Neurodiversity Celebration Week website for information on neurodiversity and autism. You can also see details of free workshops and courses available for parents and carer with children on the autism assessment waiting list.
You can find out more about what autism is on the National Autistic Society’s website.
Bristol Autism Support is a registered charity which exists to provide support, advice and information to parents and carers of autistic children, diagnosed or suspected, in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and BaNES.
Areas of Neurodiversity need
It can be helpful to recognise areas that the children and young people have differences and difficulties with. Outlined below are resources for different autism and neurodiversity needs.
For toddlers and young children, this strategy session video would be a great place to start, as it covers different areas of attention and listening, play, interaction and communication.
- Social communication and interaction
- Repetitive / restricted behaviours
- Routine and rituals (inflexibility and adaptability)
- Sensory differences
- Demand avoidance: Strategies that are evidenced to help children and young people with demand avoidance may be helpful and should be considered alongside and sometimes instead of strategies evidenced to support children on the autism spectrum.
- Speech and language
- Attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity: The support around attention will depend on the cause of the difficulties such as lack of interest in topic, environmental distraction and poor sleep patterns. Some of the behavioural strategies recommended for ADHD may be appropriate. Good resources can be found on the ADHD Foundation Website. These include:
- Monitor environmental distraction
- Movement breaks
- Chunked learning
- Regular exercise
- Good sleep patterns
Further assessment for ADHD may be appropriate if significant functional difficulties persist despite behavioural strategies and you would like to consider medical management. See referral to Community Paediatrics for ADHD for more information.
You can also view our webinar below on a parent/carers’ guide to attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity difficulties in children.
- Coordination, balance and motor skills
- Learning difficulties: If a child or young person has differences in the way they learn or have been recognised to have a learning disability they may need a differentiated curriculum tailored to individual needs. Discuss with the school special educational needs and disabilities coordinator (SENDCO). Some schools can commission an educational psychology assessment to understand the child’s cognitive needs in more detail. In situations where moderate or severe learning disability has been identified and there are specific areas a child is needing support and intervention for, a referral to Childhood and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) may be appropriate.
Bristol Autism Support has information around managing challenging behaviour in neurodiverse children and young people.
The National Autistic Society website has information about demand avoidance — a persistent and marked resistance to doing something that is requested or expected of you.
The Maudsley Charity website has created a series videos with simple tips and tricks for dealing with challenging behaviour. These videos have been created by researchers and NHS mental health experts, which are backed by science and proven to work with families.
Parenting courses are offered by the local authority and can be accessed via the council web pages.
Sleep problems are common in all children and young people and are experienced more if there are additional neurodiversity. The best way to manage sleep difficulties is through behavioural changes. Good sleep hygiene is essential. One You and Happy Maps give information for improving sleep according to age group.
Diet and Eating
Selective eating is very common in young children especially those with neurodiverse presentations and the Sensory Play Toolkit is a booklet with information, games, and ideas, which aims to help you increase your child’s confidence to try a few more foods. If you are concerned about restrictive eating impacting your child’s growth, health and wellbeing contact your GP. More information is available from the charities BEAT and Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) Awareness UK.
If your child has a very limited diet they should take multivitamin supplements. There are a range of different preparations. Speak to a pharmacist to help find one that your child will manage to take.
Emotionally Based School Avoidance
Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) has been described as:
“a pattern of absence where reluctance, or refusal, to attend or stay in educational setting. This is rooted in anxiety and may be the result of an interplay between personal, family, school, or wider environmental issues. It is not a diagnosis but a special educational need.”
A child or young person experiencing EBSA may show one or more of the following behaviours (Rae, 2020):
- Refusal to get ready for school or to leave the house
- Rumination and worry around school-related issues
- Sleep problems
- Psychosomatic illnesses (eg. headache/tummy ache occurring when no underlying medical cause can be found)
- Defensive aggression (eg. may display when feeling ‘out-of-control’
Emotionally based school avoidance is very common among young people, especially young people with neurodiversity. Information and resources for children and young people, parents and carers and teachers to support can be found below:
Schools can refer to Primary Mental Health Specialists for a consultation
Off the Record offer 1:1 and group counselling and intervention for young people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire aged 11-25 years
Creative Youth Network support, advice and creative courses for young people aged 11-19 years old in Bristol and South Gloucestershire
Young Minds Parent Helpline webchat and email support for parents or carers concerned about their child’s mental health (up to 25 years)
School Nurse can offer some advice around emotional wellbeing and other issues such as sleep
Kooth offers online support to young people aged 11+ in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
The emotional wellbeing directorates provide a good overview of services and resources for children and young people struggling with their mental health
Happy maps provides support, advice and information on young people’s mental health, all in one place. From preschool to young adults.
MindEd For Families provides safe and reliable advice about young people’s mental health, created by experts and parents together.
A wide range of resources for many areas of mental health on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services website.
Mind You is a South Gloucestershire focused website on mental health, developed by young people and CAMHS, Off the Record, Barnardo’s (resources suitable for children and young people across BNSSG)
Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health has links to resources and talks.
Research suggests a significant proportion of people experiencing gender-related distress are autistic, although the reasons for this are not well understood. Children and young people experiencing gender-related distress need lots of love, thoughtful care, and opportunities to talk with people they trust, to help them understand their thoughts, feelings and experiences. There are a range of paths and outcomes for children and young people in this position, which can feel hard for them and their families to navigate.
MindEd Hub have provided online learning modules, commissioned by NHS England, which are designed to help:
- understand gender-related distress.
- share practical ideas about supporting children and young people who may have gender-related questions or are experiencing distress.
A formal diagnosis of autism is not required for additional educational funding and support including application for an Educational Healthcare Plan.
SAY (Send and You) provides the statutory Special Educational Needs and Disability Information, Advice and Support (SENDIAS) service for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. SEND And You offers a free service to parents and carers, children and young people who may have or have special educational needs and disability (SEND), as well as professionals. SAY SENDIAS service covers education, health and social care services.
Advice line: 0117 9897725
SEND in Your Area
Every local authority has a Local Offer available which provides information on support and provisions in the local area for young people (aged 0-25 years) with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and their parents or carers.
For more information, email email@example.com with your name and phone number. The team will contact you within 2 working days. Or you can call FLORA on 0117 352 6020.
For links to lots of support and organisations for children with SEND needs in Bristol SEND support e-book.
Portage is a home-visiting educational service for pre-school children with SEND and their families.
Take a look at our Speech and Language Therapy top tips and resources for early years children and top tips and resources for school aged children, for advice and tips and ideas for improving speech and language.
The Early Years Autism Assessment Team held an online strategy session for parents and carers to support with learning new ideas to support children. This session can be viewed in the video below.
It may be appropriate to seek support from other services or professionals. These could include the following:
- School/Nursery/college – SENCO
- Children’s Centre, Health Visitor or School Health Nurse
Neurodiversity and autism neurodiversity
- Neurodiversity Celebration Week
- Resources for schools around neurodiversity from LEANS
- Portsmouth Neurodevelopmental resource pack
- Portsmouth Neurodevelopmental training manual
- Neon Daisy neurodivergent girls
Free workshops and courses
Repetitive / restricted behaviours
Routine and rituals (inflexibility and adaptability)
OT sensory advice line (Thursday mornings): 07971035385
Speech and language
- Top-Tips: Understanding Communication
- Top Tips – Using Visuals
- Online strategy session for parents and carers
Coordination, balance and motor skills
Attention, activity and impulsivity
- ADHD Foundation
- Classroom approaches for the child with inattention and/or hyperactivity
- Inattention and hyperactivity resource list
- Information for parents on managing inattention and hyperactivity in their children
- Webinar on a parent/carers’ guide to attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity difficulties in children.
- Top-Tips: Emotional Regulation
- Bristol Autism Support
- Video tips for dealing with challenging behaviour
Diet and eating
- Off the Record
- Creative Youth Network
- Young minds parent helpline
- CAMHS resources /
- Mind You website
- Happy parent, Happy child South Gloucestershire
CAMHS and experience of trauma and neglect
Gender-related questioning and distress
SEND Information and Parent Carer Information and Support
- SAY (Send and You)
- Bristol Local Offer
- South Gloucestershire Local Offer
- Support for families with SEND
- North Somerset Local Offer
Council Parent Courses
Early help and social care support