does my child have autism
How can I help my child? I'm worried about my child

Does my child have autism?

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects the way a person interacts with the world and those around them.

If you are concerned that your child may be autistic you can:

  • make an appointment with your GP who will refer to you a community paediatrician for assessment for your child.
  • You can also talk to your school SENCO (special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) who can assist with support in school.
  • If you are Bristol based you can attend one of our All About Autism Sessions to learn more about autism or our New to Autism support block.

Following are some ‘early warning signs’ of autism in pre-school children. Every child is different, and some may show different signs.

  • Having no spoken words by the age of 16 months
  • Rigid food preferences / limited diet
  • Lack of interest in ‘joint attention’ – playing games with adults, such as peekaboo
  • Fails to point at objects to get adult attention
  • Resists being held
  • Avoids eye contact
  • May have no awareness of others around them
  • Reacts strongly to loud noises or bright lights

This is a very small sampling of the kinds of behaviours that may indicate autism in a child. The NHS has an excellent page on autism symptoms in different ages.

If you are concerned that your child may be autistic, it is important to pursue an assessment so that your child may get appropriate care.

The NHS holds responsibility for diagnosing autism. Click here to read the NHS page about autism diagnosis.

If your child is aged 0-5
If you have concerns about your child’s development, speak to your health visitor, GP or nursery staff (if applicable). The benefit of seeking advice from a health visitor is that they will come to your home and take a detailed family and developmental assessment and help you to understand the next steps, usually referral to a paediatrician and a speech and language therapist if your child has a language delay.

If your child is 5-16
If your child is school aged, a health visitor, school nurse, GP or teacher can refer you to the Children’s Community Health Partnership (CCHP), which is part of the NHS.

The diagnosis process
The NHS Integrated Care Board (ICB) that serves Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire have been updating their website information during 2023 and 2024.

The current information about referral criteria and their specialist autism assessment services can be accessed here: https://sirona-cic.org.uk//children-services/resources/referral-criteria/

Whilst you are awaiting a referral or diagnosis, you are still eligible to get support from us at Bristol Autism Support, your school via the SENCO and private diagnosis.

You can find more information, resources and support at Autism Central for Parents and Carers | Autism Central

Bristol Autism Support are the South West hub for Autism Central so our specific courses, events and support can be found by selecting the South West region

See also our page on What is Autism for more useful information.

The Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (Q-CHAT) is a questionnaire which aims to identify toddlers aged 18 to 30 months old who may have autism. The Q-CHAT has 25 questions and takes approximately 5 – 10 minutes for a parent/carer to complete if they have concerns related to their child’s social communication development. Click here to take the test.