On this page you will find out what autism is, what support is available as well as resources that you might find useful.



Spring 2018: We have listened to your feedback and in the Summer term this year we are going to transform this page into a 'Understanding your child's diagnosis' page. This page will not just be about autism, but all types of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities to make sure the Local Offer covers more levels of need.

Watch this space!

What is autism?

According to the National Autistic Society, autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

Autism is part of the autism spectrum and is sometimes referred to as an autism spectrum disorder, or an ASD. This means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties, their condition will affect them in different ways. Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disability and need a lifetime of specialist support. People with autism may also experience over or under sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours.

The three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share are sometimes known as the 'triad of impairments'. They are:

  • Difficulty with social communication - some people living with autism may have problems with communication, both verbal and non-verbal. They may find it hard to process language and could find it difficult to follow long or complex sentences, or to follow instructions. People with autism can find it difficult to interpret a person's tone of voice, their body language or their facial expression. They may also find it difficult to maintain eye contact with others.
  • Difficulty with social interaction - some people with autism may find it hard to recognise and understand the emotions that other people display, and find it difficult to communicate or explain their own emotions and feelings. They may also find it difficult to manage their emotions.
  • Difficulty with social imagination - people with autism can find it difficult to understand other people's intentions and behaviour. They may find it difficult to imagine situations that are outside their own routine. They might find it hard to predict what will, or might happen if they are faced with change, so often limit themselves to only a small, repetitive range of activities. Some people with autism may also have difficulty in understanding the concept of danger.

How do I get an autism assessment for my child?

The referral and assessment pathway for Derby city is currently under review. However, if your child lives within Derby city and you have concerns or you suspect that they may have an autism spectrum disorder you should speak with your health visitor, your GP or your educational provider.

SEND ASD diagnosis chart

What help is available?


The National Autistic Society is the leading UK charity for people on the autism spectrum (including Asperger syndrome) and their families. We provide information support, pioneering services and campaign for a better world for people with autism.

The Autism Education Trust (AET) is dedicated to coordinating, supporting and promoting effective education practice for all children and young people on the autism spectrum. The AET website provides tailored advice and resources for professionals, parents, carers and children and young people with autism. The AET is funded by the Department of Education (DfE) and was founded by Ambitious about Autism (formally TreeHouse), the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) and the National Autistic Society (NAS).

The Den is a website dedicated to young people on the autism spectrum. This website enables young people to receive practical advice for managing money, work, relationships and travel to aid them in their independence.


The Derby and District Branch of the National Autistic Society provide a local hub where parents, carers and people with autism can get help, access services, support each other and meet other people and families in similar situations.

Derby's Autistic Fundraising Group of parents, grandparents, relatives and friends of young people on the autistic spectrum who live in or around Derby. The group meet monthly to plan events and activities for young people on the autistic spectrum, some with their families, and some for the children themselves.

If you have concerns about a child or young person in a Derby city school with special educational needs or disabilities, the Specialist Teaching and Psychology Service (STePS) may be able to help. 

Derby City Team for autism

The STePS Team for autism consists of experienced and qualified staff who deliver a range of services which include:

  • support and advice for parents
  • a drop-in group, find out more in our ASD
  • parent courses
  • advice on using resources
  • support and advice to schools
  • demonstrating autism-friendly strategies
  • providing support with transitions between schools
  • train ASD champions in schools.

As a result of the increase in the number children and young people with a diagnosis of autism in Derby, the STePS Team has made some interim changes to our service delivery. We want to develop our support to parents and increase the training we offer to schools and settings through our Autism Champions workshops.

From January 2016, rather than offering a home visit to parents of children with a new diagnosis, we will be offering appointments at our family drop-ins or at The Council House. To contact the STePS ASD Team, telephone 01332 641400 or email

Autism Champions

Primary and secondary schools have access to Autism Champion training from the STePS Team for autism. This training consists of three separate three hour workshops where participants learn about the three main areas of difficulty and gain practical strategies to help children in their setting who have a diagnosis of ASD. After completing this training they gain the title of Derby Autism Champion. It is their role to share knowledge and strategies in the educational provision they work in.

Early Years and Foundation Stage settings are offered the equivalent training to Autism Champions. This training consists of two three hour workshops where participants learn about autism as a spectrum, communication, sensory and interventions and resources to use within the setting to support the child. The majority of Early Years and Foundation Stage settings have staff who have attended this course.

Sensory rooms

For some children and young people with autism spending time in a sensory room can be helpful. Sensory rooms provide an environment where you can focus on particular senses such as touch, sight, sound, smell and taste as well as the more abstract senses of wellbeing, space, time, togetherness and many more we could describe. This can happen in many ways including through special sounds and visual effects, tactile experiences, vibration, use of aromas and music.

In Derby, the following schools have a sensory room:

  • Alvaston Junior School
  • Becket Primary School
  • Brackensdale Junior School
  • Derwent Primary School
  • Lakeside Primary School
  • Springfield Primary School
  • Ivy House Special School (Primary and Secondary)
  • Bemrose Community School
  • Da Vinci Secondary School
  • Newton's Walk
  • St Andrew's Special School
  • St Giles' Special School
  • St Martin's Special School

If your child doesn't attend a school with a sensory room, but you and the school they attend feel they would benefit from this; discuss the matter with your child's SENCO and your occupational therapist.

Some schools can make arrangements for pupils from neighbouring schools to use their sensory room if it is available. Such arrangements will need to be made between the two schools with the parent’s consent.

What types of schools are available? 

There are three main types of school - mainstream, which most pupils attend and Enhanced Resource Schools and Special Schools which support about 2% of pupils with high levels of additional need. Find out more about types of schools on the Local Offer Education and Childcare page.


Leaflets for parents


The Derby City Specialist Teaching and Psychology Service (STePS) Team has created several leaflets with helpful advice included in them, these can be found below:

You may also find these guides useful:

What support is available for adults with autism?

We have a webpage for adults with autism and their families to find out:

  • how to ask for a diagnosis of autism in Derby for an adult
  • how people who are diagnosed can get an assessment for support
  • how carers can get an assessment for support
  • what support is available to people with a diagnosis.

What support is available locally?

The Derbyshire Autism Services offer information, advice and guidance but above all support to children, young people and adults affected by autism - with or without a diagnosis, and their families. The service also works with professionals in other services to make sure that individuals and families affected by autism have their needs met and fully taken into account when involved with them. You can search the useful links and downloads below to find out more. To contact the Derbyshire Autism Services, telephone 01773 741221 or email

We want to hear from you

Don't forget we are always wanting your feedback.


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