Learn about Autism

Autistic people may act in a different way to other people, for example:


Find it hard to communicate and interact with other people.


Find it hard to understand how other people think or feel.


Find things like bright lights or loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable.


Get anxious or upset about unfamiliar situations and social events.


Take longer to understand information.


Do or think the same things over and over.



The prevalence of autism in the general population in East Berkshire is estimated at 1% or 4441 people in 2020 rising to 1.5% by 2039 (6991 people). In contrast the prevalence of autism is significantly higher among those registered with vision and hearing difficulties. Source: Click Here

Signs of autism in young children include:

Not responding to their name.

Avoiding eye contact.

Not smiling when you smile at them.

Getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound.

Repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body.

Not talking as much as other children.

Not doing as much pretend play.

Repeating the same phrases.


Autism in older children

Signs of autism in older children include:

Not seeming to understand what others are thinking or feeling.

Unusual speech, such as repeating phrases and talking ‘at’ others.

Liking a strict daily routine and getting very upset if it changes.

Having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities.

Getting very upset if you ask them to do something.

Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on their own.

Taking things very literally – for example, they may not understand phrases like “break a leg”.

Finding it hard to say how they feel.


Autism in girls and boys

Autism can sometimes be different in girls and boys.

Autistic girls may:

Hide some signs of autism by copying how other children behave and play.

Withdraw in situations they find difficult.

Appear to cope better with social situations.

Show fewer signs of repetitive behaviours.

This means autism can be harder to spot in girls.

For more information about Autism and Girls click here


Main signs of autism in adults

Common signs of autism in adults include:

Finding it hard to understand what others are thinking or feeling.

Getting very anxious about social situations

Finding it hard to make friends or preferring to be on your own.

Seeming blunt, rude or not interested in others without meaning to

Finding it hard to say how you feel.

Taking things very literally – for example, you may not understand sarcasm or phrases like “break a leg”.

Having the same routine every day and getting very anxious if it changes.


Other signs of autism

You may also have other signs, like:

Not understanding social “rules”, such as not talking over people

Avoiding eye contact

Getting too close to other people or getting very upset if someone touches or gets too close to you.

Noticing small details, patterns, smells or sounds that others do not.

Having a very keen interest in certain subjects or activities

Liking to plan things carefully before doing them.


If you or your child have signs of autism, the next step is to talk to someone about it.

You could speak to:

a GP

a health visitor (for children under 5)

Any other health professional you or your child see, such as another doctor or therapist.

Special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) staff at your child’s school

Ask them about referring you or your child for an autism assessment.

An assessment is done by autism specialists. It’s the only way to find out if you or your child are autistic.

An autism assessment is where a team of autism specialists check if you or your child are autistic.

An assessment team may:

Ask about any problems you or your child are having.

Watch how you or your child interact with other people.

Speak to people who know you or your child well, such as family, friends, your GP or your child’s teachers.

At the end of the assessment, you’ll be given a report saying if you or your child are autistic.


To find out more about Autism assessment for children and young people please visit the Autism team page on the Berkshire Healthcare website. Click here

The adult autism assessment team for Berkshire can be found here

NICE guidance for autism in children and young people explains the process and standards expected. Click here

Nice guidance for adults can be found here

When should I tell my child? 

This is your decision. Some parents tell their children about their diagnosis when they’re quite young (primary school age), as their son or daughter becomes aware of their differences and starts to ask questions. Other parents wait until their child is slightly older, as they feel they will understand the diagnosis better.


How should I tell my child? 

There isn’t one ‘right’ way to tell your child about their diagnosis. However, here are some points to consider. 


Who is the best person in the family to help bring up the subject? 

If your child is comfortable with a grandparent or aunt, it might be a good idea to get them involved too.  

Choose a moment when you’re both in a calm mood and in a familiar place where you both feel comfortable. Autistic children can find it difficult to process new information, especially if they’re feeling anxious, stressed or are in an unfamiliar environment. 

Try to make sure you won’t be interrupted. Your child may need time to think about what you’re saying or to ask questions. 

One of the ways some parents start a conversation about autism is to talk first about differences. For example, you could write a list of family members’ strengths and weaknesses, then talk about what your child is good at and what they find difficult. You could point out that there is a name to this particular pattern of strengths and weaknesses. 

Your child may have met other autistic people. You could explain that although autistic people have some things in common, they are all different. 


How might my child react? 

Your child may be pleased that they now have a better understanding of themselves. 

Some children will become concerned that there is something seriously wrong with them which will affect their health. You may need to emphasise that autism is not a disease, and no one can die from it. Autism is a life-long condition but with the right support, autistic people can thrive. It may be that your child needs some additional support. For example, your child might have a teaching assistant at school who helps them with tasks they find difficult. You could also point out that your child is good at some things at school which other children need help with. 

Be there if your child wants to talk or ask questions. Some children may not want to ask questions face to face. Having a question box, diary or email system can make it easier for some children to ask personal questions. It also gives them more time to process your answer or think of other questions. 


What if my child wants to meet other autistic children? 

Some children find it helpful to meet other autistic children and to learn that they are not alone. 


What if my child wants to tell their friends at school? 

You could talk to teachers about the Circle of friend’s approach to supporting the inclusion of children on the autism spectrum in mainstream schools. 



Your child’s school special educational needs coordinator will be able to advise as each school must follow national guidance on the inclusion of children and young people with Autism in schools and further educational settings.


The National Autistic Society (NAS) has created advice for parents and carers and teachers on a range of educational topics for children and young people who have been diagnosed with autism. Click here


Ambitious about Autism practical toolkit contains a wealth of straightforward information in one place to guide parents and carers through their child’s journey in the early years. From the autism assessment process to the first day of school, this toolkit is packed with practical tips and checklists to support parents during the earliest years of their child’s life. It also provides signposts to sources of support or additional information. Click here


IPSEA: Independent Provider of Special Education Advice: information and training on the support disabled children are legally entitled to at school, including Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs). Click here


Transition plans are required only in special circumstances if a young person is transitioning into adult services. The plan will be co-created with stakeholders in children and adult services and take account of the young person’s wishes and needs.


This link may help a young person understand what a transition plan is Click Here


NICE guidance on transition can be found here Click Here


The Royal College of Paediatricians also provides guidance on what a good transition plan should contain here Click Here

Autism Berkshire: an autism charity delivering specialist services, training and social and leisure activities throughout the county Click Here


Berkshire Healthcare Foundation NHS Trust Autism assessment team for children and young people Click Here


Berkshire Healthcare Foundation NHS Trust Autism assessment team for adults Click Here


Parenting Special Children; provide specialist parenting support to parents and carers of children and young people with Special Needs, so that they can create positive change in their lives Click Here


The Autism Group is committed to supporting and enhancing the lives of young people on the spectrum, their parents, and carers. The group focuses on offering support and social opportunities primarily for those of secondary school age and over, together with parent support and training Click Here


Bracknell Forest Council SEND Local Offer: a guide to services available for children and young people in Bracknell Forest with special educational needs and/or disabilities aged from birth to 25. Click Here


Bracknell Forest Council Information, Advice and Support Service: provides confidential and impartial advice, information and support to parents or carers and children and young people who have, or may have, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in Bracknell Forest. Click here 


Bracknell Forest Community Team for People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder support adults aged 18 and over with a primary diagnosis of autism Click Here


RBWM SEND Local Offer: provides information on local services and support available for families including children and young people aged 0 – 25 years with special educational needs or disabilities Click Here


RBWM Information, Advice and Support Service: free, impartial, and confidential information, advice and support to children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) up to age 25, and their parents/carers. Click Here


Slough’s Local Offer provides information about services, support and activities for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) aged 0-25 The service covers early years and childcare, education, health and wellbeing, care and support for families and other services in Slough Click Here


Slough SENDIASS – Information Advice and Support Service: a confidential and impartial support and advice service for parents, carers and children and young people (aged up to 25 years) on issues to do with special educational needs and disabilities Click Here


Special Voices – Slough Parent Carer Forum: raise awareness about the rights and needs of children/young people with special needs and to ensure that they and their families are consulted and involved in any decisions made during planning or developing services for them. Click Here

Afasic: support for families of children who have Speech Language and Communication needs, including those resulting from autism Click Here


Ambitious About Autism they run specialist education services, an award-winning employment programme and children and young people are at the heart of our charity’s decision-making, policy work and campaigning.  Click here


Autism Education Trust (part of the National Autistic Society): downloadable information for parents and carers as well as for schools and teachers Click Here


Autistica: is a charity which funds research into autism Click Here


Choice Support: social care charity working across England to provide the best possible support to people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs Click Here


Communication Matters: is a UK-wide organisation that supports people of all ages who find it hard to communicate because they have little or no clear speech Click Here


NHS Choices: Overview of Autism Click Here


National Autistic Society: the UK’s leading charity for people on the autism spectrum and their families, providing support, guidance and advice Click Here


National Autistic Taskforce: established to give autistic adults a stronger voice, especially those with the highest support needs Click Here


Neuro Diverse Self Advocacy: a not-for-profit organisation by autistic volunteers, offering an online forum and community of neurodivergent people who support each other Click Here


The Curly Hair Project: supports people on the autistic spectrum and the people around them, founded by autistic author Alis Rowe, using animated films, comic strips and diagrams Click Here


National links for disability


Cerebra: children with a brain condition: advice and support on subjects including education, Disability Living Allowance (DLA), toilet training and sleep Click Here


Choice Support: social care charity working across much of England to provide the best possible support to people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health needs Click Here


Contact: for families with disabled children: supporting families with the best possible guidance and information Click Here


Disability Law Service:– free advice via information, factsheets, training courses and telephone and written advice in areas relevant to people with disabilities and their carers Click Here


IPSEA: Independent Provider of Special Education Advice: information and training on the support disabled children are legally entitled to at school, including Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) Click Here


Mencap: The Voice of Learning Disability: information about learning difficulties and learning disabilities related to autism, Down syndrome and other conditions Click Here


Sibs: for siblings of disabled people: Sibs aims to enhance the lives of siblings of disabled people by providing them with information and support, and by influencing service provision throughout the UK Click Here


Sunflower: Hidden Disabilities: information about Sunflower lanyards, increasingly used to  discreetly indicate to people around you including staff, colleagues and health professionals that you have a hidden disability and you may need additional support, help or more time Click Here

The Continence Foundation: treatment, prevention, causes, types and living with continence issues Click Here

Ways Into Work: Supported Employment, Supported Internships, Recruitment and Workplace Support for disabled people Click Here

Childline: support for children’s metal health online and by telephone Click Here


ACAMH: Association for Child and Adult Mental Health: online portal with professional seminars on topics related to autism and ADHD Click Here


Anxiety UK: supporting people with anxiety, stress, anxiety-based depression or a phobia with downloadable guides and online or helpline support Click Here


CALM: Campaign Against Living Miserably (mental health support for men): a free and confidential helpline and webchat – 7 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems Click Here


Family Lives: supporting parents and families in crisis: family support services offered through helpline, and offering tailored support around issues such as bullying, special educational needs, and support for specific communities Click Here


Mental Health Foundation: aims to find and address the sources of mental health problems so that people and communities can thrive, to help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health Click Here


The Samaritans: 24 hours a day suicide prevention support online or by telephone Click Here


Young Minds: fighting for children and young people’s mental and emotional health. Support for parents and carers as well as young people Click Here


Mind: mental health charity: provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem Click Here


Harmless:  Self Harm Support: a national voluntary organisation for people who self-harm, their friends, families and professionals Click Here


Salvesen Mindroom Centre: Back to School Toolkits for children, parents and carers and teachers Click Here

Emotionally Related School Avoidance (ERSA) describes a group of children and young people who experience difficulties attending school. It can range from children and young people who are still attending school but present with anxiety, through to those with no attendance at school for an extended period. The roots lie in emotional, psychological & relational issues.

Although children’s and young people’s behaviours might not be readily recognisable as ERSA at the early stages, it highlights their vulnerability to develop ERSA. The 2022 Attendance Audit from the Children’s Commissioner found that in Autumn 2021, 1 in 4 children were persistently absent. In 2018/2019, this figure was 1 in 9 – meaning that persistent absence has more than doubled in this time.


An ERSA guidance and toolkit has been developed and shared with all schools across the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.


The ERSA toolkit is a set of guidance intended to support schools completing early intervention work to support children and young people presenting with ERSA to attend school.


The ERSA toolkit includes a graduated response guide, outlining to schools the appropriate resources, measures, and referrals to be implemented at the varying stages and severity of ERSA.


Please contact the ERSA email for school training, advice and signposting support from the ERSA coordinator. Email: ersa@achievingforchildren.org.uk

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