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Autism affects social interaction, communication, interests, and behaviour.

It is often described as ‘Autism Spectrum Condition’ as the way someone’s autism is expressed differs for each person. 

It's estimated that about 1 in every 100 people in the UK has ASC. More boys are diagnosed with the condition, although it's thought to be under-recognised in girls.

Girls with autism seem better at noticing how peers react in different situations, and copying their actions to ‘fit in’ with social norms. This is called ‘masking’ and can be tiring and stressful for young people to manage for long periods of time.

Autism is a lifelong condition, and there is no 'cure' for ASC. Instead, children and parents can be helped through speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, educational support, and other interventions.

Read the All-Age Autism Strategy.

Signs of autism

The main features of ASC – problems with social communication and interaction – can often be spotted in early childhood.

Some young children with ASC don’t babble or use other vocal sounds. Older children have problems using non-verbal behaviours to interact with others – for example, they have difficulty with:

  • eye contact
  • facial expressions
  • body language
  • gestures.

For more about the signs of autism in children and when to get advice see the NHS website.

How is autism diagnosed?

Diagnosis - under 5

If you're worried that your child is showing signs of autism, speak to your GP, health visitor or School Nurse. It can also be helpful to share your concerns with your child's nursery or school.

Email your health visitor on: or call the Duty Line on: 03003001970.

Your nursery or health visitor may refer to you the specialist clinic at Wood Street health Centre known as the Social Communication Clinic.

See the quick guide for young people and their families (PDF) produced by SCIE and NICE.

Diagnosis - older children

If your child is over 5, their school can refer them to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) for an assessment. CAMHS will ask them for information on how your child is doing at school and how they relate to other children. This includes completing a questionnaire called a ‘Childhood Autism Spectrum Test’ (CAST)

They may also ask for reports from professionals working with your child such as an Educational Psychologist or a Speech and Language Therapist.

You'll be called for an in-depth interview with you and your child which may be in person or via video. This will be followed by a face to face appointment with your child.

There is currently a waiting list of 4 months for the first contact and 4 to 6 months for the follow up appointment and discussion.

Get in touch

0300 555 1247 (For out of hour emergencies call Mental Health Direct: 0300 555 1000.)

Opening times

9am to 5pm
9am to 5pm
9am to 5pm
9am to 5pm
9am to 5pm
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Child and Family Consultation Service
Wood Street Health Centre
6 Linford Road
E17 3LA