If you suspect your pre-schooler (under 5 years old ) child is autistic, normally the first port of call is the nursery SENCO, or if your child doesn’t go to nursey then you can talk to a health visitor or your GP and ask them to be referred to the Child Development Centre. Please note that this is a long process, normally there are several months of waiting lists so it may be good to start earlier where possible.

You may also be referred to the ICAN service by your GP. You can read about them here


Here is what the NHS say about getting a diagnosis in Leeds. Please note this document is from 2018 so some things may have changed since then.(link to full document)

If your child is under 5 years old:
The initial assessment of your child will usually involve seeing a speech and language therapist and/or a paediatrician, and having a hearing assessment. If there is still concern after these assessments, your child will be referred to the autism assessment team in a Child Development Centre (CDC). There are 3 CDCs in Leeds, each covering one of 3 areas in the city.
Your child will be assessed by a team of health and education professionals, including a speech and language therapist, a clinical psychologist, a specialist health visitor, an occupational health therapist and an educational psychologist.
You and your child will be seen at home and you will be asked to tell us about your child’s early development, share why you have concerns and when you became concerned. This allows the team to learn more and see your child in their own environment. Often children can behave differently in different environments so it is important for the team to see them at home.
Your child will also be seen by members of the assessment team in an education setting (nursery or school), and for a whole morning in the CDC.
The team will observe and assess your child using a range of toys and play equipment. They will look at how your child interacts with others, how they communicate their needs, involving both understanding and expressive communication, and identify any routines or obsessive and repetitive behaviours. They may also assess your child’s sensory processing and their learning and play skills. The team will also refer to the International Classification of Diseases 10 (which gives guidance to medical practitioners on how to diagnose accurately) and identify if your child meets the criteria for a diagnosis of autism.
The team will discuss their thoughts with you and you will usually leave the
assessment morning knowing whether your child has a diagnosis of autism or not, and with a plan of what will happen next to support your child (whether they have a diagnosis or not).
Sometimes the results of assessment may not be clear and the team may want to review your child about 6 – 12 months later.
The team will also offer training for parents, groups for parents and children, and specific interventions (approaches) to support your child’s communication, behaviour and learning development.

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