The Specialist Autism Assessment Service for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire
Who is the service for?
The Specialist Autism Assessment Service accepts referrals for children and young people (age two years four months up to the age of 17 years six months), registered with a GP in Bristol, North Somerset, or South Gloucestershire, who are experiencing very significant neurodiversity difficulties associated with suspected autism.
We are all neurodiverse. Our genetics, our experiences and the environment we live in affect the way our brain develops. This leads to differences in the way we interpret and interact with the world around us. Differences can be strengths for example: attention to detail; approaching problems in a new creative way; good recall and memory or high energy levels. For some children and young people, the differences result in neurodiversity needs requiring extra support at school and/or at home. No two children are the same and a child’s support needs change as they grow and develop.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which is part of the neurodiversity spectrum. Autism affects the way a person communicates and interacts with others. Repetitive behaviours, intense interests, sensory differences and difficulties managing change are also features. One autistic person will be different from another and need different types and levels of support. Read more about Autism.
What we do
The Specialist Autism Assessment Service provides assessments for children and young people with neurodiversity needs and suspected autism causing them very significant difficulties in their daily life despite appropriate support.
The referral criteria for the service are outlined here.
Click on a link below to view a list of resources for the following subjects:
Information and signposting
If you are concerned that your child is developing differently from their peers and may be on the autism spectrum or if a young person themselves wonders if they may be autistic we would recommend supporting their additional needs as soon as these are recognised.
You do not need a diagnosis to support a child/young person with their neurodiversity needs. Families and young people and their educational setting can find out more about neurodiversity and autism and put into practice useful strategies that can be helpful.
There are a number of ways children and young people with additional needs associated with autism (including needs around communication and interaction, rigid and repetitive behaviours, and sensory differences) can be supported. See our Information and Signposting resources.
Recognise Neurodiversity. Neurodiversity is a term that recognises people experience and respond to the world around them in different ways. Individuals with different perspective can contribute new ideas, creativity or unique skillsets that are valuable to society. 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. For some individuals acknowledging and supporting neurodiversity needs is sufficient to help an individual and those around them understand them better and a formal autism assessment is not required.
Identify an individual’s strengths and nurture these. Helping a child or young person to be happy being themself and have confidence and good self-esteem is also important. Focussing on their strengths and abilities can help with this.
Identify an individual’s areas of neurodiversity need and put appropriate strategies into place to help with these. Change takes time. See our Information and Signposting resources for more information.
Learn about autism needs. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which is part of the neurodiversity spectrum. Autism affects the way a person communicates and interacts with others and how they experience and respond to the world around them. All individuals are shaped by their inherited genetics and also their experiences and one person on the autism spectrum may be very different from another and need different levels of support. Read more about Autism.
It may be appropriate to seek support from other services or professionals.
The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) or staff member in an education setting such as a school, nursery or college. Before referring for an autism assessment plans, should be in place to support a child’s needs within education. Funding for education and applications for an EHCP should be applied for according to needs and are not dependent on a diagnosis.
Portage for young children that are not yet in an education setting
Health visitors and school nurses to help understand an individual child’s needs and give advice and support in areas under their expertise including sleep and development and, in some cases, make onward referrals to other services.
See our Advice and Signposting page for more information and resources.
Other health professionals including speech and language therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists if needs are within their referral criteria.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for children and young people with significant mental health illnesses that meet referral criteria.
Getting more help (more extensive goal-based help)
This is the point of referral.
If a child or young person has needs associated with autism which are impacting negatively on their daily lives despite appropriate support, and they meet the referral criteria (Referral Criteria – Sirona care & health NHS services (roberth572.sg-host.com), a referral can be made for further assessment. Details are available on Making a referral – Sirona care & health NHS services (roberth572.sg-host.com)
Not all children are accepted for an autism assessment and an assessment does not always result in an autism diagnosis.
Who can make a referral?
- Parents and carers
- Health care professionals: e.g. community paediatricians, speech and language therapists, GPs, school health nurses
- Education staff e.g. Early Years setting or school Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO)
It is important to be aware that because of the high demand for the service the waiting times are very long even for children with significant challenges. Support and interventions should not wait for the result of the autism assessment. See our Information and Signposting resources.
The assessment considers the range of factors that may be affecting the way a child presents. Not all children and young people accepted for an autism assessment are given an autism diagnosis.