What is Autism?

As the old saying goes, “when you meet one child with Autism, you’ve just met one child with Autism.”

There are about 100,000 children in the UK who are on the autistic spectrum. Each child is different. But in general terms your child might have problems relating to other people or find it tricky to feel part of everyday life. The range of abilities, skills, brilliance and need is so different for every child on the spectrum and that’s why Sky Badger has put everything you might ever need in one place.


Signs of Autism

Autism is tricky to diagnose before your child reaches 24 months but there might be signs in terms of some benchmarks not being met in how your little one communicates with smiles, expressions or gestures. You might also notice your child not making words by the time they turn 16 months, not responding to their name by their first birthday or loosing speech or social skills….but please don’t panic!  Just contact your GP or health visitor and talk through your concerns.

When your child gets older signs of autism might include...

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Delayed speech
  • Getting really upset by changes in routine
  • Being seriously obsessed with certain interests like Tomas the Tank Engine or Superheroes.
  • Big reactions to sensory stimulus like smells, textures or lights.
  • Having trouble understanding other people’s feeling
  • Struggling with jokes or sarcasm
  • Really enjoying repetitive behaviours like flapping, clapping and fiddling

But again, please don’t panic. Autism is complicated. Your child’s uniqueness might be just that. On the other hand, if they are on the Autistic Spectrum, there is a lot of help out there for all of you. A diagnosis doesn’t change your child. It just makes the way you parent better informed and more effective. If you’re worried, go to your GP or Teacher and ask that your child be tested.

Autism Test

If your child is at pre-school, you can ask your GP or health visitor to give your child the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT). This is a little test for children from 16-30 months. This doesn’t give your child a diagnosis but it will give you a better idea if you want to move forward to a proper assessment. If your little one is already at school, talk to your SENco. They are the teacher responsible for special needs at your child’s school and will chat to you about what getting a diagnosis means.

If your GP, health visitor or SENco thinks your child might have a problem, then they will refer them for a formal assessment. This should be a multi-disciplinary diagnostic assessment with lots of different specialists. You may also get support from am occupational therapist, speech therapist or educational psychologist during this process.

It may take a little while to get an assessment date.

what is autism

The Autism Assessment

This might take a few different appointment. There will be a lot of paperwork involved including school/nursery reports, a physical exam, lots of cognitive, behavioural, developmental and mental health assessments, and full family history.

Ask lots of questions, its fine. Write them down in advance and take a notebook with you if anything pops up during or after the appointments.

There are different ways to diagnose children on the autistic spectrum but they will probably follow the following...


The results of the assessment might be complicated too so ask for clarification or further information. You are about to become experts after all and this is just the beginning of your journey.

With your diagnosis, you can start planning to get the support in place that your child needs. Speak to your SENco, GP or health visitor and get their opinions too. You might also be referred to your local Child Development Centre to specialist support and information.


Now What?

You may just have had your child’s diagnosis or be years down the line. Either way, Sky Badger definitely has information you should know about. So if you’re looking for grants, IT advice, extra help at school, support for your other children, the perfect family holiday destination, communication aids or pretty much anything else….well, then you’ve come to the right place.

Check out our holidays section to find free, low cast and Autism friendly holidays. Try our finance section to find grants for IT or how to apply for DLA and don't forget to look at our education section to get help at school or sort out your child's EHCP. If you can't find what you're looking for, just contact our helpdesk and we'll always do our best to help.

Please look through the Sky Badger website to find your own bespoke package of support. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then feel free to contact our helpdesk and we’ll do our best to find the right help at the right time for you and your whole family.

Here are some other organisations and charities that you might find useful too…

KS2 maths

Ambitious about Autism

Ambitious about Autism is the national charity for children and young people with autism. They provide services, raise awareness and understanding, and campaign for change.

what is autism

The National Autistic Society

Providing specialist help, information and care across the UK, depending on where you live, they provide information, residential homes, one-to-one support, support in your home, day-time hubs and support in further and higher education.


Autism UK

Autism UK provides training, research, a forum and lots more useful information.

Child Tax Credits

Resources for Autism

Resources for Autism provide practical services for children and adults with an autistic spectrum condition and for those who love and care for them.


Autism Education Trust

The AET is a partnership of a wide range of individuals and organisations focused on improving the education of children and young people with autism from the voluntary, public and private sectors.

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Research Autism

Research Autism is the only UK charity exclusively dedicated to research into interventions in autism. They carry out high quality, independent research into new and existing health, education, social and other interventions.

Not sure where to turn?


Contact our helpdesk

Do you need specific help for your disabled or special needs child? Click here to tell us more about what you're looking for and our helpdesk team will do their very best to find you what you need. All of our advice is confidential and we will not share your details or personal information with anyone.

Lost in Transition – Part 3

Ruthless People

Max wants to be a chef...right. So what qualifications should he get? What matters? What will give him the skills and prove he has worth?

This is not my area of expertise so I started by doing that crazy mum thing and went to cafes and restaurants door to door, I asked friends, strangers, I just asked everybody. They all had the same kind, but deeply puzzled, expression as I whittled on. I think they were all a little scared that I was job hunting for my good for nothing lummox of a son. When they realised I was only a little crazy they gave me a bit of time. The list was a great starting point. I might go back in a couple of years to the nice ones for some actual job hunting for Max.

Anyway, there are a tonne of courses that would give Max his golden ticket to a job....or at least take him as far as I could to help him walk head high into an interview.

I started looking at my local colleges and then I hit that proverbial cliff again. Entry requirements. Damn it. Although Max is doing two GCSEs these did not including Maths or English. Why should that matter, he can read a recipe and measure ingredients! He has been predicted a C and a D. Then the GCSE cookery was changed to a different course. Why you ask? If he’s so able? Simple dear reader, as of 2014 all GCSE’s have become academified.

All GCSEs now require a written component under exam conditions. And yes, before you say it, Max would get a scribe to write for him but who’s going to help him organise his thoughts? I’d like to make some flippant joke about brain damage to lighten the mood but seriously, Max has got big problems and the simple fact that he can no longer do coursework based GCSEs means he has been disabled academically more than is bearable.

Max is amazing but his learning ability is like Swiss cheese, so some subjects he’s fantastic at like cookery and some he can’t do and will never be able to understand or do. One of those irritatingly is maths. Why doesn’t 1+1=11? It’s a bit like me and bowling. Many have tried to help, dozens in fact, but I simply can’t bowl. In time I have come to accept my bowling disability, but this maths thing is going to be a great big noxious elephant in the room.

I took each college course in turn checking out their admissions criteria,

“3 GCSEs at grades A*-G or 9-2 ideally including English and maths, and a keen interest in catering.” “3 GCSEs at grades A*-G or 9-2 ideally including English and maths” “You will need GCSEs at grade D or better - including English and Maths” “Students are required to have an English and Maths qualification at Entry 3.”

All getting a bit Grrr, I then follow up with a begging phone call to each college, an excepting pretty please? But there was no budging. And I hadn’t even begun to add into the mix all of Max’s other medical and learning problems. It turns out that now everyone going onto a college courses have to have a certain level in Maths and English. It doesn’t matter if they’re studying beauty therapy, catering, fine art or underwater sports management. There is no way to break this rule. So let’s see if I can bend it just enough to keep my promise to Max.


If you’re in the same place, you might want to check out these useful links…


Preparing for Adulthood-

The National Autistic Society-

Epilepsy Action -

Lost in Transition – Part 2


Paperwork, so much paperwork. Max’s annual review is scheduled in a few weeks. I’ve got to try to sort this out so everyone understands what Max wants to do, who he wants to become. Surely that has to count for something?

I’d better fill you in. Max is an incredible kid, but all parents say that but I’m right. Let’s do the medical stuff first, Max has a rotten type of Epilepsy, Autism, developmental delay, ADHD, learning disabilities, bilateral cleft lip and palate repair...and yada, yada, yada. You know how this goes. It sounds like the beginning of a joke but I’ve never met an SEN kid with just one diagnosis. He is unique in the best and worst of ways.

For the sake of anonymity, I’m going to call all the experts, doctors, teachers and professionals that I meet along Max’s Transition journey 'Bob'. That way, when things get serious, and I’m sure they will, at least I’ll still find the name 'Bob' funny.

The interesting thing about Max is that he gets flavours. And I mean in a serious way. At first, like most kids on the autistic spectrum he used to have dinner plates like pie charts. Each food type divided into its own little deliberate slice, nothing in actual contact with anything else. Really pretty plates actually. But then one day he noticed that the cheese he was eating tasted even better with walnuts. And that was his eureka moment.

His love of food started to grow. Max was offered a cookery class at school and flew with it...seriously impressive. Then another cookery class, this one was a Jamie Oliver course as part of his DofE. Max is now about to start the same course for the 3rd year running and he’s half way through doing cookery as one of his two GCSEs.

I live just outside Cambridge and find myself often surrounded by bragging parents showing off their 10* GCSE kids, the ones that will go to Oxbridge or the Moon, and well done them....but Max’s cookery GCSE makes me more proud than any of those Boden wearing, Picturehouse visiting, gin drinking, hothousing, dragon mothers. My Max is an original.

So my job this week is to find Max some post-16 courses in catering and hospitality. Max doesn’t ask for very much so when he said:

“Mummy, do you think I can grow up to be a chef one day?”

...Well damn it, yes you can. The beautiful thing about mums of disabled kids, and I might just be talking about myself here, is that we’re so wracked with internal guilt that we will literally move planets to find our kids some happiness. Because it’s not much to ask for really.

I just have to fight a whole lot harder to build my son a future. Pretty much everyone else just takes it for granted, I’m glad they don’t know what this feels like. And now to begin the great Google. It may be a very late night indeed.


If you’re in the same place, you might want to check out these useful links…


Preparing for Adulthood-

The National Autistic Society-

Relate -

Epilepsy Action -