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Wiltshire Autism Assessment Service (WAAS)

The Wiltshire Autism Assessment Service (WAAS) provides an assessment-only service for children and young people who are showing possible signs of autism.

What is autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects:

  • How a person communicates and relates to other people
  • How they experience the world around them.
  • Social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

The common behaviours of autism may be detectable at an early age, however these behaviours often don’t show themselves until an aspect of the child’s life changes, for example when the child goes to nursery or primary school or moves to secondary school.

What does the Wiltshire Autism Assessment Service (WAAS) do?

  • We provide an assessment for children and young people with possible autism.
  • We will provide a named autism practitioner who will guide and support families throughout the assessment process.
  • We will gather information from a number of sources, including pre-schools, schools, parents and carers and other health professionals, in order to make a diagnosis for the child or young person.

What will happen if your child is assessed for autism?

  • An autism practitioner will contact you for a telephone assessment. This will help the team to gather all the important information they need to start the assessment process. The autism practitioner will talk you through the process and will answer any questions or concerns that you have.
  • The child or young person will then be seen for a medical appointment with one of our Community Paediatricians.
  • Next, the child or young person will be seen for a social communication assessment with an autism practitioner if additional information is required. The Autism Practitioner will explain the most appropriate pathway for your child.
  • All the information gathered is presented at a multidisciplinary panel.
  • The outcome of the assessment and next steps will be shared with you following this.
  • A Post Assessment Meeting (PAM) will be arranged. This will usually take place in the child or young person’s education setting (if currently in school). The meeting will help identify how to access the appropriate support for the child or young person.
  • Following this meeting, the child or young person will be discharged from the Wiltshire Autism Assessment Service.

Throughout the assessment process, information will be gathered from people who know the child or young person well. The evidence gathered will be reviewed by the WAAS team and a decision will be agreed with the you and the child or young person regarding a diagnosis.

What to do if you think your child has autism

There are lots of support ideas and strategies which you can use if you think your child has autism.

Talk to school

Talk about your concerns with school (if your child attends school). Some children and young people with autism do not show many of their symptoms at school, whilst others can find things more difficult and demonstrate this through their behaviour.

It is important to talk through your concerns with the staff who work with your child or young person, even if they are not seeing those behaviours at school.

Knowing how children and young people are within the school environment is an important part of our assessment process.

Talk to your child

Some children and young people may be ready to talk about the differences they are experiencing. It is OK to talk about these differences before your child has a diagnosis. You don’t have to mention autism at this stage.

You may find this short video about Autism useful which aims to raise awareness and understanding about autism.

For younger children

The CBeebies ‘Pablo’s Art World Adventure’ games and activities may help you talk to your child about how people are different.

There is a character called Julia in ‘Sesame Street’ who is autistic. Talking about how Julia sees things differently to other characters may help you talk to your child about their differences.

For school age children

Click HERE to watch the ‘Amazing Things Happen’ video, a short animation which aims to raise awareness of autism. This could be a good place to start when talking to your child about Autism. It may also be useful for teachers and other professionals. It is available in different languages.

Click HERE to watch the BBC Newsround special ‘My Autism and Me’

For adolescents

There is some advice from the National Autistic Society about talking about autism with them . There is also a useful comic strip that has been created to explain autism.

It is very important that young people agree with being assessed for autism, and understand the impact of a diagnosis of autism.

Requesting a diagnostic assessment for autism

If you continue to suspect your child is autistic, please discuss with your school in the first instance, who will be able to make a referral to our Wiltshire Autism Assessment Service. See our Single Point of Access (SPA) page for guidance on how to make a referral.

If your child is not attending an education setting, you can contact your Health Visitor, School Nurse or GP to support the referral. We will also try and gather information from others who know the child well.

Support after an autism diagnosis

Understanding a child or young person with autism

Having a diagnosis of autism may help your child or young person understand themselves better, particularly as they grow up. The diagnosis may also help family and education staff understand the child or young person and appreciate that they sometimes see things differently.

A diagnosis of autism does not mean that your child will receive extra help or support in school, as some children with autism manage well in school with very little support. Provision of support in school is dependent on a child or young person’s needs rather than a diagnosis.

Click here to view our mind map filled with advice on how to support your child The activities highlighted in the mind map will help you understand your child’s condition and make day to day life easier to manage with their difficulties.

Support in Wiltshire: Autism Parent Programme

Support in Wiltshire: Autism Parent Programme (SWAPP) is a four or six week programme for families and education staff who have a child or young person with a diagnosis of autism. The course is based on the Barnardo’s Cygnet Programme and aims to:

  • Help parents and education staff to better understand the child or young person’s autism
  • Improve communication with the child or young person
  • Develop strategies to pre-empt problem behaviours and/or manage those which do occur.

Families who would like a place should contact Wiltshire Council on 01225 757 901 or email TSLS.OperationalOffice@wiltshire.gov.uk for an application form or book online at the SWAPP website.

Support in Wiltshire: Autism School Strategies

Support in Wiltshire: Autism School Strategies (SWASS) are designed to support pupils on the autism spectrum but they are equally applicable for pupils with social communication difficulties. Click here to download the resource pack.

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