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Wiltshire Autism Assessment Service (WAAS)

The Wiltshire Autism Assessment Service (WAAS) provides a diagnostic 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 diagnostic assessment for children and young people with possible autism.
  • This includes gathering information from a number of sources including preschools, school, parents and carers and other health professionals in order to complete a diagnostic assessment for the child or young person.

What will happen if your child is assessed for autism?

  • We will arrange an initial telephone consultation with you. This may take a few months to arrange. Signposting advice and useful resources can be found on our website.
  • The initial telephone contact will be carried out by an Autism Practitioner. They will talk to you about your child’s development and the next steps in the assessment. They will send a report to confirm what these are and offer advice about help and support that is available.
  • If indicated, we will arrange a medical assessment appointment for your child with a Community Peadiatrician.
  • If the Community Peadiatrician identifies reasons to further investigate autism, we will complete the diagnostic assessment for you child. This will include a review of all the information we have collected in order to make a diagnostic decision. We may also offer further assessment, such as a virtual or face to face social communication assessment appointment.
  • Once all the diagnostic information has been gathered, it is presented to a multidisciplinary diagnostic panel who consider all of the information, alongside any other factors which might impact on your child’s development.
  • When the information has been completed by the panel, the Autism practitioner will contact you to discuss the outcome.
  • A Post Assessment Meeting (PAM) may be offered to discuss the assessment outcome and offer advice and signposting.
  • Following the assessment outcome, your child will be discharged from the 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.
Additional information on autism can also be found on the Ambitious About Autism website: http://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/information-about-autism/understanding-autism/what-is-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 http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/parenting-support/parenting-courses

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. http://rightchoice.wiltshire.gov.uk/Page/13393 to download the resource pack.

How long until my child will be seen for an assessment?

Check out our newsletter for our current timescales.

If you’re not sure when your child was referred to the WAAS, please check your initial telephone consultation report or telephone the Single Point of Access (SPA)

What can I do to support my child before the diagnostic assessment is completed?

There are lots of links to organisations on our website and some of these may have been signposted during your initial telephone consultation.

If you would like to sign up for our monthly e-mail newsletters which contain signposting, advice, new resources and service updates, please e-mail SPA (vcl.wiltshirespa@nhs.net) with your details and preferred e-mail address.

Does my child need a diagnosis for support to be in place at school or an EHCP?

If you have questions or concerns about support for your child in school, arrange to meet with your school SENCo to discuss this. Support in school is needs led, rather than diagnosis led.

How can I help my child with transition?

It may be helpful to liaise with the SENCo of your child’s new school to discuss transition and things which are available, for example, visual supports. Further advice is also available on the National Autistic Society webpage. We also include some signposting in our monthly e-mail newsletter.

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