The Schmooze: Giving parents of autistic children the support they need

Norwood understands the challenges these youngsters' families face each day


The recent two-part BBC documentary Inside Our Autistic Minds saw presenter Chris Packham support individuals to communicate their experience of autism to those closest to them.

Parents of young children who aren’t hitting expected milestones can convince themselves that development is mildly delayed.

When speech is delayed, parents can establish effective non-verbal communication to understand their child’s needs, helping to mask the appearance of autism.

NHS statistics show that by December 2021, there were 93,344 open autism referrals — an increase of 38 per cent on January of that year.

Despite that, with autism often presenting as challenging behaviour, parents are left to struggle alone without professional support.

But while the experience of parenting an autistic child may be different, in many cases it can be richer.

It’s important to build a network of like-minded people. By sharing information with families facing similar challenges, you can form lifelong connections that support every stage of your child’s development.

There are many layers to supporting an atypically-developing child and not all local authorities have the available resources.

Some may provide early years programmes which support parents. But with most autistic children attending mainstream schools lacking in sensory-specific resources, community-based organisations provide rich complementary support.

I recently visited the excellent Pears Special Resource Provision (PSRP) at JCoSS, which Norwood partners. Facilities such as these provide specialist support for autistic pupils, funded by charitable grants. They are few and far between.

Norwood understands the challenges families face each day. We know where the gaps in provision lie and work to bridge them.

Parents often reach out to Norwood at the start of their journey. We signpost our Rainbow Group, which allows parents of children with a range of needs to discuss their feelings and share information.

Such groups can offer emotional support and friendship and parents benefit from sharing the good and less good times with experts and each other.

Every autistic child has their preferred means of communication. Challenging behaviour often comes from them not being able to communicate their needs in a way that is understood.

So it’s important to establish your child’s preferred communication method early on. By building a common language, you will establish a good footing to reduce anxiety.

Once the child reaches school age, we aim to support parents to develop their knowledge and skill-set and establish a network of those experiencing similar circumstances.

Resources include our soon-to-launch Exploring Autism programme and Non-Violent Resistance course to support parents to effectively respond to children exhibiting more disruptive behaviour.

Try not to measure your child’s development against non-autistic children, both to manage expectations and to avoid setting limits on their potential. Many parents tell us they are surprised by what their child is capable of.

Establishing a clear routine can not only help keep challenging behaviours to a minimum. It can also make the experience of parenting easier.

However, it’s important to enjoy the moment, experiencing life through your child’s lens. In this way, you can build your relationship and make meaningful memories.

Accessing appropriate support can be a minefield, particularly as not everyone qualifies due to their level of disability.

fBut everyone needs a degree of support and a network of people to provide it in accessible and non-judgemental settings. That’s where organisations such as Norwood can step in to help the whole family.

Naomi Dickson is Norwood’s CEO
If you are concerned your child may be autistic, call Norwood’s advice line on 020 8457 4450

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive