How social communication needs are identified for children


Children with social communication difficulties may struggle with:

  • interacting with other people
  • switching their attention between people and activities
  • understanding and using eye contact, facial expressions, body language
  • listening and paying attention to the world and people around them

It is important to find out if your child has any additional needs as soon as possible, so they get the right diagnosis and support.


Some children with social communication difficulties may be diagnosed with autism. See NHS: Signs of autism in children.

If you have concerns about your child

If you have any concerns about your child, contact your GP or health visitor.

Under 5s

There is a process in place to assess your child:

  • in their early years, and
  • with their language and social communication skills (including autism)

This process is known by professionals as the 'Early Identification Pathway for Additional Needs'.

See Early Identification Pathway for Additional Needs.

Over 5s

You can refer your child to the Lifecycle Service

Your child can also be referred by their GP, school, or another professional.

Your case will be reviewed to decide the next steps.

You may need to provide more information about your child.

Your child may be referred to the Children and Young People's Service (CYPS) for an assessment.

You will then be invited to a welcome meeting.

If your child / young person's circumstances change

If you are waiting to be seen by the Children and Young People's Service, and your child / young person's circumstances have changed, you can contact the duty worker who will record these details.

If you need support whilst waiting for an assessment

You can get support from the Toby Henderson Trust at the Autism Hub whilst you are waiting for an assessment.

The hub provides support for families and offers one-to-one and group sessions, workshops and has resource library.

The assessment

You will meet with your care coordinator. This will be either a community practitioner or an occupational therapist.

You and your child will need to attend all of the appointments.

Your child will be observed through play.

These assessments may be known as an Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule Assessment (ADOS).

Your child may need other observations as part of the assessment process.

These may take place at home, school, or in the clinic.

Feedback appointment

Once the assessments have been completed, you will be invited to a feedback appointment.

You will be told if your child has been diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder, such as autism.

You will receive a diagnostic report, and your child will be discharged.

If you are not happy with the outcome of the assessment

If you are not happy with the decision, you can ask for a second opinion.

This will be carried out by staff who were not part of the initial assessment.

Support after your child's diagnosis

You can get support after your child's diagnosis from the Toby Henderson Trust at the Autism Hub.