For parents who are just starting on their autism journey there is a lot to take in and understanding the terminology and abreviations for the various professionals, procedures etc can be confusing. We have listed some of the acronyms and terms you may come across, however if there is something you think should be added please feel free to contact us so we can update the list.
Core acronyms associated with diagnosis and school
ADOS – Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule. In order to get a diagnosis your child may have an ADOS test as part of their assessment. (An ADOS test is also often used if you take part in autism research.) The test is carried out by a trained professional (usually a paediatrician) and usually takes around an hour. They are looking for the prevalence of autistic behaviour and once completed the scores will be totted up and if the total is above a certain number it is likely that your child is on the spectrum. You should receive a detailed report which will also state where your child scored.
Annual Review Meeting – If your child has a Statement or EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) this will be reviewed each year at an Annual Review Meeting (attending the meeting should be parents along with the school and all professionals involved e.g. Speach and Language Therapist, Occupational Therapist etc.)
AS – Asperger’s Syndrome. A term no longer officially used, you will get an autism spectrum diagnosis now rather than Asperger’s Syndrome.
ASC / ASD – Autistic Spectrum Condition/Disorder. A reference to having an autism diagnosis.
CAMHS – Child and Adult Mental Health Services. They usually assess a child for autism and provide the diagnosis.
EHCP – Education, Health & Care Plan. “Statements” were replaced in September 2014 with a new approach called an EHCP which aims to bring all the support needs of a person together. It is a legal document stating what the needs of a child are and what support they must receive).
IEP – Individual Education Plan. Although no longer required to, many schools still use an IEP. It is a brief written plan, agreed between the school and parents/carers, setting out SEN related targets for the child and how they will work towards achieving them (these are not academic targets, they may be social skills targets for example). The plan is often reviewed at parents evening or SEN review meetings you may have with school during the year.
LSA / TA – Learning Support Assistant / Teaching Assistant. If it is deemed that your child needs extra support in school they may be assigned an LSA / TA who will help them to access the curriculum.
SEN / SEND – Special Educational Needs / Special Educational Needs and Disability. Any child diagnosed with autism is considered to have SEN regardless of their academic ability.
SENCo – Special Educational Needs Coordinator (every school must have an assigned SENCo). The SENCo is responsible for the school’s provision for identifying and supporting children with SEN.
SPD – Sensory Processing Disorder. Most children who have autism will have some degree of sensory processing disorder. They may be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to things such as bright/flickering light, certain noises (hand-dryers being a common one), smells, tastes (picky eater or over eater?), being touched (e.g. level of physical pain felt), difficulty knowing when they need to go to the toilet etc.
Professionals likely to be involved
EP / Ed Psych – Educational Psychologist. Most children with autism will have seen an EP, usually during their normal school day, as part of their original assessment. The EP will produce a report (wich you should receive a copy of) on what they obvserve and can advise on how to support the child in school.
OT – Occupational Therapist. If your child has difficulties doing things physically they may be referred to an OT for assessment. The OT can help with things like pencil grip, use of scissors, dressing etc. and can give advice on how to best help your child with their difficulties. See also Sensory OT next in this list.
Sensory OT – an Occupational Therapist who has specialised in the area of sensory processing (see SPD). At the time of writing an OT doesn’t have training in this area as standard, they need to decide to get extra training to specialise in this area. See also SPD next in this list.
SALT / SLT – Speech and Language Therapist/Therapy. Many children with autism will see a SALT, they help with understanding of words, knowing what to say, pronunciation, helping with stammers etc.
Benefits you may be entitled to
DLA – Disability Living Allowance. A benfit which you can apply for if your child has a disability (diagnosis not essential) and needs extra support over and above that of a typical child of the same age.
Carers Allowance – A benefit which you can apply for if you are a parent/carer of a child with a diagnosis and meet certain conditions.
Common co-occuring conditions
Not all autistic people have additional conditions, but it is common, and more likely than among the general population.
ADHD / ADD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder / Attention Deficit Disorder.
Dyscalculia – a maths learning disability, some people call it “math dyslexia”. Symptoms include difficulty with number sense, fact and calculation, and mathematical reasoning, making sense of money, or telling time on an analog clock. For more information visit the dyscalculia website: https://www.dyscalculia.org
Dyspraxia – affects fine/gross motor skills and also organisation and planning ability (e.g. difficulty using knife and fork, slow and unsteady coming downstairs, cannot ride a bike, needs help to organise belongings etc). If you think your child may have Dyspraxia it is best to ask for referral to an Occupational Therapist. For further info see our useful links section. For more information visit the Dyspraxia Foundation: https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk
Hypermobility – double-jointedness. Many children will have hypermobility, it can affect one joint or several. It seems to most commonly occur in fingers, elbows, hips and feet. Children may also have low muscle tone and may complain of aching legs when walking or sore hands when writing. A referral to an Occupational Therapist is the best route for diagnosis.
Irlen Syndrome – some children are reluctant to read or may lose their place a lot, misread words, skip words etc. It may be worth getting them assessed for Irlen Syndrome (certain opticians are able to do this). If the child is found to have Irlens they will be recommended overlays or even glasses in the specific colour which is appropriate to them.
Selective Mutism – an anxiety disorder affecting a person’s ability to speak in situations that cause them anxiety. They may chatter away in a private family setting for example, but be unable to speak to a teacher at school. For more information visit the SMA (Selective Mutism Association): https://www.selectivemutism.org
PDA – Pathological Demand Avoidance. The anxiety associated with a task they have been asked to do is so strong that the person can’t attempt it and refuses – which without understanding of the condition can cause a lot of conflict and challenges.