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Understanding autism
Understanding autism

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2.1 NAS services

The National Autistic Society (NAS) has assembled a directory of support services [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] for families with an autistic member. It includes a wide range of service providers as well as services offered by the NAS itself, two of which are outlined below.

EarlyBird

Besides the many services that the NAS offers to autistic people, it also offers some excellent services for parents and families. Parents of younger children (up to age 8) may be able to access an EarlyBird or EarlyBird Plus support programme.

EarlyBird is a three-month programme that provides group training sessions for parents with individual home visits. Video feedback is used to help parents apply what they learn as they work with their child in the familiar home setting.

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Figure 2 Photos of an EarlyBird session, each featuring parent and child with an EarlyBird trainer who is recording the session.

EarlyBird programmes are run by trained and licensed professionals with the aim of:

  • supporting parents in the period between diagnosis and school placement
  • empowering parents to facilitate their child’s communication skills
  • supporting parents to deal resourcefully and positively with their child’s behaviour, including more challenging aspects.

EarlyBird Plus is an enhanced form of the service that invites a professional who works with the child (such as a teacher at school) to attend the sessions, so that the child receives consistent support.

Evaluations of both EarlyBird and EarlyBird Plus programmes are positive (Stevens and Shields, 2013). Parents who have participated show reduced stress, more positive perceptions of their children and enhanced communication with them.

The two EarlyBird services are here:

http://www.autism.org.uk/ earlybird

Parent to Parent Service

‘I cannot thank the volunteer I spoke to enough. For the first time as a parent I felt understood. I have felt so isolated for such a long time’.

Anonymous comment from a parent (NAS)

The NAS also offers a telephone service for parents seeking advice, support or just someone to share things with. The Parent to Parent Service gives parents a chance to talk to other parents of children on the spectrum, trained to provide this support. This service has proved a popular and effective way of reducing the isolation that parents often feel. The service is here:

http://www.autism.org.uk/ services/ helplines/ parent-to-parent.aspx