Cygnet Parent Autism Awareness Programme July-August 2021

We are delighted to continue our offer of the Cygnet programme online.

The programme is for parents/carers of Devon school children aged between 7 and 18 pre or post diagnosis. We are excited to announce that we have negotiated and agreed access for families of CYP who are currently on the autism assessment pathway, in addition to families of CYP who have received an autism diagnosis.

So here at Babcock LDP as licensed trainers we will be offering access to this programme during this Summer Term period, as hosting our usual parent autism awareness programme is not physically possible at this time due to CV19 restrictions.

Is this course for me?

During and after a diagnosis parents and carers can have a lot of questions about autism and may feel isolated in managing their child’s needs.

Children’s needs also change over time, and information and advice received when a child is younger may need to be updated to be relevant for the child/young person today.

Attending the Cygnet programme gives parents and carers an opportunity to develop their understanding of autism and look at practical solutions to managing social communication and behaviour difficulties.

6 weekly sessions (approx. 2hrs each) related to the following topic/themes:

  • Introduction - Mon 19 July
  • Autism overview - Mon 26 July
  • Sensory - Mon 2 August
  • Communication - Mon 9 August
  • Understanding behaviour - Mon 16 August
  • Supporting behaviour - Mon 23 August

We (Babcock LDP) will send a web link to your email each week (Monday a.m) to access the relevant weekly topic. You will need an email address and the internet to access this programme.

The programme is purely in an online format (not a webinar or live presentation).

We will invite and respond to questions related to training topics/themes following each week’s topic.

Posting on our Website, responses to the most commonly asked questions and additionally signposting to our already established and developing resources and themes.

How do I accept and access the programme?

Simply email to indicate you would like to accept the programme access offer (using the same email you wish weekly web link sending to). You will be asked to complete a Reply Slip to confirm details.

Access invites have also been made to parents/carers on our existing waiting list for parent autism awareness programmes.

On Mon 19 July you will receive the 1st weeks’ web link from us. Feel free to share this email with other families you know who would also welcome access. They will then also receive full access to the programme through us.

Once engaged in the programme we will maintain contact on a weekly basis to invite any questions you may have related to programme topics and signpost you to additional resources and themes to support your learning.

This online access may be limited to the CV19 period only, so we would highly recommend access and completion if the programme is right for you? The main benefit of online access is the ability to access on any day and time that fits with your own family life.

Apply direct by email to:

Please DO NOT contact Barnardos for access to this programme.

Additional Communication & Interaction weekly themed supporting resources are available for viewing at:

Below are questions and answers relating to the Spring 2021 programme:

Week 1 - Introduction

Question 1: 

Are girls assessed for autism using a different criteria and framework to boys? Are there age appropriate criteria for assessments?

Answer 1:

The Diagnostic manuals ICD-10 and DSM-5 currently set out the criteria for an autism diagnosis:

In most case a multi-disciplinary assessment will occur before a diagnosis of autism is given. This often includes (but isn’t limited to) assessments/ reports from a paediatrician, clinic psychologist and a speech therapist. The multi-disciplinary assessment will usually use specific diagnostic tools as part of this process these may include the Diagnostic Interview for Social and Communication Disorders (DISCO), Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), Autism Diagnostic Interview Revised (ADI-R) or the Developmental, Dimensional and Diagnostic Interview ( 3Di).

In Devon the ADOS and 3Di are often used in combination during the assessment procedure and alongside any other reports and pieces of information are used to see if the criteria for an autism diagnosis has been met.

Although there is currently research being undertaken into possible differences in presentation between autism in girls and boys as far as we are aware there is not currently a different criteria for assessment between the two genders in the UK. However the possible differences in presentation will be taken into account by the specialists as part of the multi-disciplinary assessment and when reviewing the diagnostic reports. (We have contacted the assessment team in Devon just in case there have been any new developments in this area and if there have been any recent changes that we are unaware of we will update you accordingly)

Many of the diagnostic tools do take into account different age ranges and developmental levels.

The ADOS for example consists of four different modules. Each of them is designed to provide the most appropriate test for an individual at a certain age or functional level:

  • Module One – Designed for individuals who do not have consistent verbal communication skills. Uses entirely non-verbal scenarios for scoring.
  • Module Two – Designed for individuals who have minimal verbal communication skills. This may include young children at age-appropriate skill levels; most scenarios require moving around the room and interacting with objects.
  • Module Three – Designed for individuals who are verbally fluent and capable of playing with age-appropriate toys. Can be conducted largely at a desk or table.
  • Module Four – Designed for individuals who are verbally fluent but beyond the age of playing with toys. Incorporates some Module Three elements but also more conversational aspects regarding daily living experiences.

The DISCO collects information using a dimensional approach and concerning all aspects of the individual’s skills, challenges and untypical behaviours, not just the features of autism. Where possible it gathers information from the person's history in infancy and childhood is collected from an informant who has known the person from birth. However, when for an adult, there is no informant available to give an early history, the items of the schedule can be completed for current skills, challenges and untypical behaviour. So can also be used as an assessment tool for all age ranges.

The ADI-R and 3Di also incorporate questions related to age, historical presentation and developmental milestones that are used within their diagnostic algorithm to identify likelihood of an ASC diagnosis being appropriate.

You may find the following resources useful for further information on Autism and presentation in girls:


Week 3 - Sensory

Question:How do you help someone with possible ASC realise consequences of actions. For example: If someone seems to behave without processing the consequences of their actions, as if this part of the process of thought is switched off. If you have repeatedly tried to explain this to the person with ASC, and it is a daily occurrence. Is this due to a sensory issue? How can we help them to complete the process, and think about their actions?


There could be a number of different reasons for why the child/ young person (CYP) isn’t able to understand or see the consequences of their actions or see things from your perspective. Without specific examples of what is happening and how you have tried to explain the situation to the CYP it is difficult to identify why it doesn’t seem to be working or make a specific recommendation but I will offer some possible reasons and strategies that may support.

I would suggest that anything you are saying/ explaining is supported with visual systems as well. Either pictures/ symbols or written if the child/ young CYP can read and understand. This will help to reinforce what you are saying and also means that you can refer back to them when needed and the CYP can also reflect on them as required. You may also find that if visual cues are placed in the environment and you regularly refer to these the CYP will learn and remember the rules/ expectations. E.g. ‘No entry’ symbols on cupboards that are not available/ out of bounds.

Week 2 of the cygnet course mentioned ‘theory of mind’ which is the ability to see things from another CYP’s perspective and understand that people see and think different things.

This is an area that many people with a diagnosis of autism have great difficulty with, it may also be a reason why your explanations may not be working or why they are not able to understand the consequences of their actions (are only able to see things from their point of view).

Two ways to support this and to teach social expectations would be through the use of social stories and comic strip conversations.

Comic strip conversations can help to pick apart what people are thinking and feeling in specific situations and Social stories can then help explain to the CYP what they can try to do in the situation. Both are very visual and state clear facts with no inferred meanings or expectations, they can also be referred to again and again which can help people to retain and remember what to try to do in specific situations.

They are not a quick fix and often the CYP will need support in following a social story. It is always good to ask them to demonstrate what to do after they have read the story as many children/ young people may read the story and be able to tell you what it means but not then realise that they should do what the story is suggesting. Rereading and practising can be very useful.

You may also consider using flow charts to show and practice making alternative choices within difficult situations. They are useful in supporting a CYP to develop flexibility of thought. Some people with SLCN and/or Autism may struggle to predict other’s thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviours and so, may find it difficult to understand ‘consequence.’ Flow charts can explicitly support the learning and development of ‘problem solving skills’ as they provide a visual representation of scenarios and help explain abstract concepts in a concrete way.

I often create flow charts that have 3 possible routes/ sequences, one that is the preferred sequence/ route and desired outcome, one that is okay but may not have the best outcome and one to avoid with undesired outcome.

Weeks 5 and 6 of the Cygnet course will also go into more detail understanding and supporting behaviour.

It is possible that the behaviour you are seeing is due to a sensory need, either sensory seeking or avoiding. If this is the case then we would often suggest that rather than trying to stop the behaviour you try to find and teach an alternative method of gaining/ avoiding the sensory feedback which is more social appropriate or is safe. E.g. a child who likes to pour and will pour everything they can, may benefit from having a specific area and items where they can pour. Then if they start to pour the milk onto the floor you can step in and model “no pouring milk, pour water in the tray” and guide them to the appropriate area etc. Or if jumping on beds, furniture etc. you may direct them to jump only on a trampet.

You would also want to practice this and reinforce with visual cues such as a photo/ symbol of jumping on the sofa with a line through it or no entry symbol over it and a picture of the trampet with a tick next to it.

Further strategies to support understanding/ information on using visual supports can be found on our website.

If you are able to provide a little more information on exactly what is happening I will be happy to review and possibly offer a more tailored response. As I mentioned before weeks 5 and 6 of the Cygnet course will also go into more detail around understanding and supporting behaviour.

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