What is autism?

Autism affects people in different ways. All autistic people have strengths and differences personal to them.

Parents and carers often notice their child struggles with using language, making eye contact, making friends and playing well with other children.

The National Autistic Society’s website had much more information about how to spot autism

Anyone worried child, can speak to:

  • a doctor (GP) or health visitor
  • a nursery worker
  • the SENDCO at their school

They'll talk about the worrying issues and give advice and support. They might decide to refer for specialist help or an assessment.


Autism is diagnosed by looking at a child or young person’s social communications and interactions to check whether their behaviour, interests, or activities have any restricted or repetitive patterns.

What parents/carers have noticed about their behaviour is vital.

Paediatricians, GPs and health visitors, will work with parents/carers to understand the child’s needs and help get early support. 

They must give parents/carers the chance to give their opinion and let them know who can provide advice or assistance.

This includes educational advice and any intervention to be put in place.

Once professionals can identify behaviours and characteristics of autism, a child should be referred for a formal assessment.


Children aged 0-18 years old will need an initial referral to the Community Paediatric Team. They accept referrals from:

The Community Paediatric Team may then refer the child or young person to the Lambeth Autism and Related Disorders Service (ARDS).

The ARDS team will only accept direct referrals from:

  • Community Paediatric Team for all ages from 0-18 years 
  • CAMHS for young people aged 14-18 years

Specialist assessment

Assessments are held at the Mary Sheridan Centre. ARDS will arrange an appointment. With the parent/carers’ consent, they ask for information from the child’s school, CAMHS or other people involved in their care.

The assessment team may include:

  • paediatricians
  • specialist speech and language therapists
  • clinical psychologists

The ARD assessment takes at least two hours to complete, and includes:

  • a detailed history of the child’s strengths and differences
  • an assessment of social interaction, communication, behaviour and play skills 

Extra language, learning or school observation assessments might happen at another session.

Children diagnosed with autism get:

  • a comprehensive ARD report
  • an autism information pack 
  • access to any current local workshops 

Children not diagnosed with autism receive an ARD report with relevant advice as required. 

After the assessment

Families and carers are offered a review, then discharged from the ARD Service.

Complex cases are referred to other services only when indicated, following professional and parental consensus by the ARD team.