Autism is a lifelong condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.
Autism is on a spectrum and is often called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). This means that even though children and young people with ASD have the same type of difficulties some of them are more affected by the level of their difficulties than others.
People with autism may also be affected by other conditions as well as ASD.
Watch this video that explains a little about what autism is and how it affects people.
Find out more about autism on these websites:
- National Autistic Society
- NHS choices - autism
- Contact - autism and aspergers syndrome
- Health Talks - Autism
Page last moderated: 16/09/21
What to do if you are worried about the way your child communicates and interacts with other people?
If your child is under 5 years old you can discuss your concerns with someone from the following services:
- Your GP
- Your child’s local Children’s Centre inclusion lead
- Your child’s Nursery manager
- Contact Speech and Language Therapy Service or go to a Talking Walk-in (drop in assessments for early years)
- Early Support and Area Senco Team - Inclusion and Specialist Support Team,
- Portage Service (this service would be involved if a child was NOT attending a nursery )
- Key Working Team (provides support to children with complex health and social needs aged between 0 – 25. Most of their work is with pre-school aged children. Older children supported by this service are either new to the borough of Hackney or have been newly diagnosed with a complex medical condition and need to be introduced to local services)
- Health Visiting Service
If you child is over 5 years old and attending school ask to speak to the school SENCO or school's Speech and Language Therapist.
You can contact the Speech and Language Therapy Service directly or discuss concerns with you GP.
The Social Communication Assessment Clinic (SCAC) can undertake assessment of 5-13 year olds where there are autism related concerns. This clinic makes assessments where the child or young person presents without significant learning difficulties.
Schools SENCOs (Special Educational Needs Coordinators) can make referrals to the Social Communication Assessment Clinic using the form on the Resources page for SENCOs, SEND professionals and others
Autism is diagnosed by looking at a child or young person’s social communications and interactions to see whether their behaviour, interests, or activities have any restricted or repetitive patterns.
Find out more: CAMHS ASD - Referrers guide
Assessment are carried out by a team of professionals from Health and Education services.
There are different assessment pathways depending on your child’s needs see the ASD pathway in the download section of this page.
Complex Communication Clinic
The Complex Communication Clinic is a specialist multi-disciplinary clinic for children where there are particular concerns about their development of communication, social interaction, play and some aspects of behaviour for children under 5 years presenting with possible autism and perhaps in need of a diagnosis.
Special Advisory Clinic (SAC)
The Special Advisory Clinic (SAC) is a paediatric assessment appointment delivered by a community paediatrician.
The clinic sees children who are 5 years and under and who may have developmental concerns.
Referrals often come through the MARS process but professionals e.g. health visitors and GPs may also refer directly to the clinic.
Find out more: Multi-Agency Referrals (MARs) meetings
Young people aged 14 years or over suspected of being affected by an Autistic Spectrum Disorder:
All young people aged 14 years or over suspected of being affected by an Autistic Spectrum Disorder are assessed at Specialist CAMHS, East London Foundation Trust, to also identify if the young people have mental health needs.
All referrals for 14 years and older group go to East London Foundation Trust.
Find out more: Specialist CAMHS - City and Hackney - Homerton Row
Find out more: CAMHS Alliance
The Social Communication Assessment Clinic (SCAC) Referral form for assessment of Autism for 5-13 year olds (without significant learning difficulties) can be found in the download section of this page.
’Not Knowing’ is an animated short documentary about a 3 year old boy who has autism. The film illustrates his difficulties processing sensory information leading to increased anxiety that manifests in meltdowns.
At first his family don’t understand his needs but after seeking support from professionals the family are able to better understand the condition and get closer to understanding their son'.
This animation was made by a Hackney parent.
The views expressed in this animation are for information purposes only.
The material is in not intended to replace professional medical care or attention by a qualified practitioner.
Condition symptoms may vary or present differently in type or severity amongst individuals.
This animation demonstrates the personal views and experience of this family who hope it will help others and raise awareness of some of the challenges children, young people and families face.
For further information about autism contact your doctor, paediatrician or school SENCo.
The assessment will take place over time and your child will be observed in different settings e.g. home and school, so that the professionals carrying out the assessment can see them in different social situations.
At the start of the assessment families will be given more information about how it will be completed and when it will be finished.
Once all the parts of the assessment have been completed a report will be written and shared with the child's parents and if appropriate the child's school, nursery or other setting. The assessment will help the relevant people understand and support the child.
If your child has been diagnosed with Autism you will be invited to attend some information sessions to help you understand this diagnosis better and to think about how to understand and support your child.
Next Steps is run at Hackney ARK by Occupational Therapists, CAMHS Disability Therapists and Speech and Language Therapists.
City and Hackney CAMHS also runs workshops after diagnosis called Pegasus. Parents are normally invited to either Next Steps or Pegasus or may be invited to an
Early Bird courses were developed byt the National Autstic Society and are delivered by a specialist teacher and family ASD intervention worker with extensive experience of supporting families. See the links below for more details...
- The Earlybird Course
- The Earlybird Plus Course
- Next Steps - Children’s Occupational Therapy
- Early Bird Healthy Minds
There are also groups that run regular sessions for parents to help them explore specific issues that come up and learn strategies that can help make thing a bit easier.
Your child’s school, nursery, children’s centres or school setting can access help for children with communication difficulties and autism from these services:
- Speech and Language Therapy Service
- Children’s Occupational Therapy
- CAMHS Disability Service
- City and Hackney CAMHS (Homerton)
- Educational Psychology Service
- Community Paediatricians - Hackney Ark
- Portage Service
- Early Support and Area Senco Team - Inclusion and Specialist Support Team
- Inclusion and Specialist Support Team
Some families may also be able to have some advice given in the home or via ASD specific group sessions
e.g. ASD Coffee mornings - run at Hackney Ark or ASD Parents Information sessions which are jointly delivered by professionals from Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy and CAMHS and run from Homerton Row. We try to keep the dates, times and any information on specific topics available on Hackney's Local Offer website "What's on?" page.
Service for children and young people with ASD from across the ability range (i.e. attending mainstream or specialist provision).
2 x ASD Assistant Psychologists from the team at the Hackney Ark can offer school staff and families support to complement and collaborate with existing ASD services in the borough.
This short-term work of up to 6 sessions, aims to help families directly with difficulties (for example, issues with communication, behaviour, eating, or sleep).
Find out more: CAMHS Disability Service
Approached to supporting pupils and students with autism in schools
Hackney Learning Trust have produced a position statement on the approaches used in schools to support children and young people with autism.
Find out more: HLT Position Statement - Approaches to Autism
You can find more autism information, guides and toolkits in the download and externals links section of this page.
Hackney SENDIAGS (SEND Information, Advice and Guidance Service) The Hackney SEND Information, Advice and Guidance Service (SENDIAGS) is an arm's length service providing impartial and confidential information, advice and support to parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) and young people and children with SEND.
Hackney Independent Forum for Parents/Carers of Children with Disabilities (HiP) run information sessions on a variety of special needs related topics and these events and meetings are a good way of meeting up with other parents who live locally and have already been through the experience of receiving a diagnosis of autism for their child.
Some children with Autism will need an Education Health Care Needs Assessment.
Some children may go to a school in Hackney that has specialist provision for autism.
Adult Autism Service (City and Hackney)
The City and Hackney Autism Service is a diagnostic service for adults aged 18 years and over. The service offers assessments and diagnosis to people with communication and social interaction difficulties which may be due to being on the Autism spectrum.
The service also provides brief interventions and signposting to those who receive a diagnosis of Autism.
A clear diagnosis can help individuals to access support, be understood and develop helpful strategies.
For information you can contact the service on..
Hackney's - Social Worker for adults with autism
Hackney has a Social Worker for adults with autism within Hackney's Integrated Learning Disabilities Service.
The Autism Social Worker works only with adults with autism who do not have a learning disability but who may have social care needs.
They can provide; advice and signposting to appropriate services, social care needs assessments where appropriate, including support for the whole family if required.
Support with transitions for young people as they near the age of 18 and transfer into adult social care.
Find out more: Hackney's - Social Worker for adults with autism
Information for professionals:
Please send referrals to
City and Hackney Adult Mental Health Referral and Assessment Service (CHAMHRAS)
If you are over 18 and have autism the services you receive may be a mix of adult services and children's services from Education, Health and Social Care.
You may still be supported with an EHC plan if you are in education or training.
You may get help with social activities or help from Adult Social Care to develop independence.
Hackney - autism strategy
Hackney is developing an autism strategy to ensure the experience of living with autism and the wider understanding of it improves.
Hackney's Autism Board have a user and carer engagement and consultation group.
For more information e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or find out more on the website: www.autistichackney.org
Autism Equality in the Workplace
Removing Barriers and Challenging Discrimination
This practical handbook lays out reasonable, achievable ways in which working environments can be adapted and autistic people included as valuable members of the workforce.
Setting out practical, reasonable adjustments such as a quiet room or avoiding disruption to work schedules, this book demonstrates how day to day changes in the workplace can make it more inclusive and productive for all employees.
Autism in the Workplace is a book intended for any person with an interest in changing working culture to make sure autistic people are included.
Author: Janine Booth - www.janinebooth.com
Hackney Autism Communication Cards
These credit-card style Hackney Autism Communication Cards have been developed for autistic young people and adults to use in situations when communication may be difficult.
Hackney Autism Alliance's user engagement & consultation work group led the design of the communications cards and its text was agreed by autistic Hackney residents, their families and carers.
The card-carrying autistic can decide when and where to show their card. They have full control of this disclosure. View the card and find details of how to get one here.
This is a trial and we’re keen to hear how useful you find the card, and how and when you use it. Let the group know by e-mailing: email@example.com
Autism alert card and passport scheme
The Metropolitan Police, City of London Police and British Transport Police, has developed an Autism Alert Card and Autism Passport Scheme after feedback from, and with the support of charities and other agencies including Autism Partnership Boards who work to support people with autism.
The aim is for cardholders to be able to readily produce the card when they come into contact with police and provide officers and staff with the information in order to aid understanding and effective interaction. The larger passports will include the similar information and can be carried in bags or rucksacks for the individual to produce when required.
How to use the cards…
The Tri-Force Autism Passport and cards will help ensure that members of the autistic community receive a consistent high standard of service and are treated with understanding and respect whenever they come into contact with the police.
"It's really important to us at British Transport Police that all of our neurodiversity communities have the confidence to travel on the UK's railways if they want to. The Autism Passport is a fantastic way to give people the confidence to travel, whilst also helping our officers offer the very best, and most appropriate, support to those who may need our help."
Barry Boffy Head of Inclusion & Diversity at British Transport Police
“Contact with police can be a stressful event for anybody, not least those with a developmental disability such as autism. As such, these cards are an incredibly valuable tool for officers, especially those on the frontline, to know if they’re interacting with a person with autism…The aim of this scheme is to allow officers to adjust their behaviour when encountering someone who carries one of these cards, making that experience easier for both the officer and the member of the public.”
Detective Constable David Jones, from the City of London Police
“Autism is a complex condition characterised by social and communication difficulties. Having an encounter with police – whether as a victim, someone officers are concerned for the welfare of, or as a suspect - is an unsettling encounter for anybody, but for someone with autism, it can be extremely distressing.
“It could be the confrontation with a stranger, or the idea of physical contact that triggers an adverse, nervous reaction in that person and potentially escalate the situation. Officers currently have no way of knowing whether someone has autism, a condition which may explain their behaviour.”
Detective Superintendent Helen Lyons, the Met’s lead responsible officer for Adults Neglected, Vulnerable and Abused
This card and passport scheme will give officers the best chance to seek the appropriate assistance and support for individuals who need it.
How to get a card and passport?
The cards and passport will be distributed and made available through Autistic Partnership Boards and local police across the capital.
To find out more about this card and passport scheme contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address.