-Including Autism (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Dyscalculia, Sensory Processing Difficulties and more
‘Neurodiversity’ is an umbrella term which is used to describe people who have brains and thinking styles which work in a slightly different way to
‘neurotypical’ people. It includes various differences, such as autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, OCD, Tourette’s Syndrome and literacy and numeracy difficulties.
We believe that being neurodiverse gives our children strengths that should be nurtured and challenges that should be effectively supported. Because no two children are the same, all neurodiverse children will experience the world differently, and it is important to think about how approaching things differently may minimise challenges and benefit your child in a neurotypical world.
Pinpoint have worked in conjunction with Health, the Local Authority and parent carers as well as forums in other areas of the country to produce this booklet that is now available for you to download. It provides lots of information about ways to support your child or young person if you suspect they are neurodiverse. It will give you lots of practical tips as well as signposting about where to go for extra support. We hope you find it helpful.
(Sometimes, when you try to download the booklet on certain mobile devices, it may ask you to sign in. If this happens, don’t worry. Just go back to the download button and press and hold it for a bit. A menu will pop up. If you’re using Google Chrome, you can choose “Incognito tab.” If you’re using Microsoft Edge, select “New InPrivate Window.” This will let you open the booklet without having to sign in.)
Autism is a lifelong neurological difference that affects how people communicate and interact with others. Most autistic people see, hear and experience the world differently from neurotypical people, but like neurotypical people, every autistic person is unique and complex. Historically, there was a common misconception that the autistic spectrum is a straight line between low and high functioning, but as understanding has increased, it is clear that everyone is completely different and has different strengths and weaknesses – you might hear this referred to as a ‘spiky profile’ and it is a great way to explain the differences of ability that are associated with neurodiverse conditions. For example, one autistic person may be highly creative but struggle to organise themselves. Another may excel at maths but find it hard to join in two-way conversations.
People with ADHD have difficulty regulating their attention because of poor neurotransmitter activity (the way chemicals are released and transferred within the brain) and brain structure differences. ADD is similar, but without the hyperactivity. ADHD usually presents in three different ways, hyperactivity (which means the need to move around more), impulsivity and inattention. Children with ADHD may be labelled as disruptive for behaviour which they cannot control. These are the main features of ADHD, but there are many more that have a significant impact on a child’s organisational skills and emotional well-being. ADHD can present differently in females – we’ve included a book recommendation below that describes the differences and dispels some myths. ADHD can occur with other neurodevelopmental conditions such as ASD, specific learning disorders, tics/Tourette’s syndrome.
Useful information if your child has Autism/ADHD
- Parent Support
- Relevant Council and Health Services
- Occupational Therapist Presentation on Sensory Processing
- Occupational Therapist Presentation on Senses
- Helpful Charities
Visual Support information and resources
Does your child or young person like visual schedules/picture checklists for independent living skills, self-care routines or managing feelings?
Visual supports are a communication tool that can be used with autistic people. They can be used in most situations are adaptable and portable. You can make your own or buy kits which you can use for day-to-day routines, transitions, and special events.
Find top tips and other visual support resources on the National Autistic Society website.
How it works and where to find help
The process for seeking a referral for a potential diagnosis in Cambridgeshire depends on the age of the child. The NHS publish their information on their website here.
Where children are in school (nursery, primary or secondary) or a setting (pre-school, college) there is guidance for how professionals can make a referral.
As a parent carer you can ask school or setting to make referral or ask your GP. You could decide to seek a private assessment. Whatever route you take do share your concerns and worries with the professionals that are involved with your child / family so that they can offer help and support.
With or without a diagnosis your child will still have needs.
It would be reasonable to expect schools and settings to address these – indeed its a legal requirement, although exactly how the needs are met are not specified (for those who do not have an Education Health and Care Plan [ECHP] and who are on SEN Support). Where there is an ECHP, then how the needs are met will need to be written into the Plan, and the law says the Plan must be delivered as it’s written.
With or without a diagnosis, children and parent carers will still need support to address and manage the needs as they relate to the child. All children are individuals, and there is no one-size-fits-all all solution. Many parent carers will tell you it can mean trying things out to find what is useful to you and your child. But there is a lot of support available.
Pinpoint offer Autism/ADHD sessions which are free – you don’t need a diagnosis to access them, just pick the ones that you think are relevant to your needs. You can book free tickets on the events section of our website.
Please note that Pinpoint are unable to recommend individuals for private assessments as we are unable to quality assure them. We recommend that you ensure that whoever you may approach for a private assessment is suitably qualified and accredited by a relevant organisation.
Early Identification of Autism Project (EIA)
The EIA is a project that Cambridgeshire SEND service and the Opportunity Area have been involved with alongside colleagues in Bradford, Nottingham, Oldham and Manchester University. Cambridgeshire were successful in obtaining a DFE grant to fund this work.
Cambridgeshire’s project focused on Girls with Autism and looked at early identification, referral routes and diagnosis pathways.
The project has now concluded but SEND services and Health are continuing to work with the other cross-country partners. They are currently delivering a pilot for a different diagnostic pathway. Some families will receive letters to be invited to the project and they are working through the waiting list as capacity allows. They hope that this will result in a faster and more comprehensive route for children and families. They are also using the remaining funding to support pre-diagnosis as they have heard from Pinpoint and SENDIASS that this is a concern for many parents. They will update you when there is further news on the plans.
Requesting an Autism Assessment
How do I make a request?
Autism is diagnosis that can only be made by a suitably qualified medical professional.
Autism Spectrum Disorder and Social Communication Difficulties
Autism is diagnosis that can only be made by a suitably qualified medical professional. Children who do not have a diagnosis of autism may be diagnosed as having Social Communication Difficulties. Cambridgeshire NHS have produced a Guide.
In Cambridgeshire, this service is provided through the NHS by the Community Paediatrician or Clinical Psychologist for preschool and primary school-aged children 0 -11 years and the Child psychiatrist/psychologist (CAMH) for secondary school age, 11- 18 years. Young people over the age of 18 will be referred by their GP to adults’ mental health services and Cambridge Lifespan Autism Spectrum Service (CLASS)
Whilst you might have an assessment as part of an Education Health and Care Plan Assessment, an Autism Assessment can be done without one.
Our Handy Guide sets out how to make a request and what the process involves.
Requesting an ADHD Assessment
Making a request
ADHD is a medical diagnosis that can only be made by a suitably qualified medical professional.
In Cambridgeshire this is provided for the NHS by the Community Paediatric Team for primary school-aged children and the child psychiatrist (CAMH) for secondary school age. Referrals are through professionals working with the child: the school, a paediatrician or GP.
For adult (18 years and older) referrals you can contact Cambridgeshire’s NHS service.
If an assessment has been done by a private clinician, this should be submitted to the community paediatric department for inclusion in the Medical advice.
Whilst you might have an assessment as part of an Education Health and Care Plan Assessment, an ADHD Assessment can be done without one.
Our Handy Guide sets out how to make a request and what the process involves.
Please click on the flowchart below for a full version of the ADHD pathway for primary age children who have interactions with CAMHS via the joint CCS/CAMHS pathway:
Literacy and Numeracy difficulties
A Specific Learning Difficulty is a neurodevelopmental condition which can occur across a range of intellectual abilities. Identifying Specific Learning Difficulties is not always easy – it can be complex. It is vitally important to understand children’s learning differences. Literacy and numeracy difficulties are best thought of as being on a continuum, with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dysgraphia falling at one of the spectrum. Its common for people who are neurodiverse to have co-occurring conditions (more than one at the same time), for example, children with ADHD or dyscalculia may also be dyslexic.
With the right help and support the majority of children do learn to read, write and do maths. It is important to understand why a child is struggling: in common with other neurodiverse children, dyslexic children may have problems with aspects of executive function such as working memory, organisation or time management. It is important to understand a child’s strengths and how a child thinks. This needs a good assessment to ensure that the right approach is used. Playing to our strengths can help us overcome the things we don’t naturally find as easy. It will also help the child understand why they may be unable to do what their peers do and stop them from thinking they are stupid! The Educational Psychology Team can help schools with free assessment tools. Please talk to your child’s teacher if your child needs more help and support.
A good place to start looking for information on dyslexia is in our handy guide – a one-page resource to get you started.
In 2019, after many months of co-production between the Local Authority and Pinpoint new Dyslexia Guidance was issued.
‘The guidance embodies the ethos of the S.E.N.D. reforms, of working with parents, children and young people as well as teachers and other professionals to enable ‘co-production’ at all levels: from interventions for an individual child; to a dyslexia friendly classroom and school; and county wide guidance, planning and commissioning. It promotes Dyslexia friendly schools, early identification and assessment, screening and evidence-based interventions; it has F.A.Q.s, tips from parents and a moving composite ‘letter from a dyslexic pupil’ to their teacher. An extensive research document backs up the guidance, with links to resources and opportunities for further learning. A focus on dyslexic strengths and what dyslexic children can do, and not just their difficulties, can help to maintain self-esteem and motivation to learn and prevent behavioural and mental health problems.
This Dyslexia Local Offer enables parents to find out about dyslexia and what to expect if their child is, or might be, dyslexic and enables parents to feed back about local services and gaps. It provides clear guidance on dyslexia and literacy difficulties – although we would argue that the terms are not interchangeable; all struggling readers, whether dyslexic or not, should receive interventions appropriate to their individual needs. Cambridgeshire should be commended for an excellent, evidence-based Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties Local Offer. , Taken from the Forward to the County Council’s New Dyslexia Guidance, from our Chair in 2019, Fay Dutton, and Helen Boden, CEO of the Briskish Dyslexia Association.
There is also a new guide for parents.
Dyslexia Checklists from the British Dyslexia Association
There are lots of free, professionally developed resources available from the British Dyslexia Association including assessment tools and checklists. Parents and professionals find them helpful.
Checklists for learners
Checklists can’t tell you whether a learner is dyslexic. They are useful because they outline your learner’s strengths and weaknesses, and can help to inform a supportive teaching strategy.
Appropriate support should be put in place as soon as a need is identified. A formal diagnosis is not required for support in the classroom. However, a formal diagnosis would help to give a clearer picture of your learner’s areas of strength and weakness.
Local Authority Position Statements
The LA have issued posiiton statements to explain some of their decisions that relate to dyslexia.
Coloured Lenses/Overlays and Vision Therapy
Cambridgeshire County Council does not recommend vision therapy or a formal assessment for coloured overlays/lenses to help with reading and writing skills. This guide explains why. There is a shorter version and easy read version available too.
Dyspraxia (sometimes known as developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD), affects physical coordination for both fine and gross motor skills.
This can make it hard to participate in everyday activities such as:
• Self-care – getting dressed and toileting, tying shoelaces etc.
• Riding a bike, learning to drive and many elements of sport and play, and a child may appear clumsy.
Oral motor skills may be affected, too, which can affect eating, drinking and speech.
Not only is physical coordination affected, but thought processes can be disorganised too, and this can increase anxiety.
You can find more help and information about identifying and supporting children who may have dyspraxia here: