Father and son reading

EarlyBird (under five years) and EarlyBird Plus (ages four-eight) are support programmes for parents and carers, offering advice and guidance on strategies and approaches for dealing with young autistic children. Both programmes work on understanding autism, building confidence to encourage interaction and communication and analysing and managing behaviour. The EarlyBird Healthy Minds programme is a six-session parent support programme to help promote good mental health in autistic children.The National Autistic Society EarlyBird Centre is based in South Yorkshire with local authority staff running licensed programmes in many areas of the UK and overseas.


The programme aims to support parents in the period between diagnosis and school placement, empowering and helping them facilitate their child's social communication and appropriate behaviour in their natural environment. It also helps parents to establish good practice in handling their child at an early age, so as to pre-empt the development of inappropriate behaviours.

Whilst there is no cure for autism, and no magic wand, EarlyBird is the closest thing you could wish for.


It will help you understand your child's autism; get yourself into your child's world, make contact, and find ways to develop interaction and communication; and learn how to analyse and understand your child's behaviours and how to use structure, so you can pre-empt and cope with problem behaviours.

The programme draws from well-established practice in the field of autism. The approaches used include:

  • the National Autistic Society SPELL approach
  • techniques from the TEACCH approach
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).

The knowledge we have gained has given us more confidence to analyse problems and hopefully prevent them rather than lurching from one crisis to another.


We work with six families at a time. Two places are allocated to each family. The programme lasts for three months and combines group training sessions with individual home visits, when video feedback is used to help parents apply what they've learnt. Parents will have a weekly commitment of a two-and-a-half hour training session or home visit, and to ongoing work with their child at home.

EarlyBird Plus

EarlyBird Plus is for parents whose child has received a later diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder and is aged over four and under nine. 

The programme addresses the needs of both home and school settings by ideally training parents/carers together with a professional who is working regularly with their child, the aim being that a child will be given consistent support. We work to build both parents' and professionals' confidence and encourage them to problem solve together. Parents are, of course, able to attend the programme without a supporting professional if their school are unable to release a staff member.

EarlyBird Plus is an absolute must to help you begin to learn and understand how your child's mind works.


EarlyBird Plus uses the established EarlyBird framework of teaching about autism before considering how to develop communication or manage behaviour. The programme consists of eight group sessions, and two home visit weeks. A follow-up session is held three months after the programme.

We work with between three and six teams (parents and a local professional) at a time. Two places are allocated to each family with a third available for their local professional or another supporting adult.

Having the opportunity to discuss things with both his parents and other school staff was invaluable


EarlyBird Healthy Minds

The EarlyBird Healthy Minds programme is a six-session parent support programme to help promote good mental health in children with autism (including Asperger syndrome). Healthy Minds has been developed in response to recent evidence which indicated that a high percentage of autistic children are at risk of experiencing mental health problems in adolescence and adulthood. The programme aims to help minimise this risk.

Who is the programme for?

Three places are allocated on the Healthy Minds programme: two for families whose child is in Key Stage 1 or 2, and one for an accompanying professional.

Autism-experienced professionals run the programme for families in their local area. The professionals are trained and licensed by The National Autistic Society’s EarlyBird Centre team. Sessions are run weekly for six weeks and last two and a half hours.

What are the aims of the programme?

Healthy Minds aims to empower parents, carers and accompanying professionals to understand more about the mental health issues that autistic young people may face.

During the six Healthy Minds sessions, we will look strategies that can help autistic children to:

  • build self-esteem
  • increase confidence
  • reduce anxiety
  • develop resilience.

Find out more

If you have any questions about our programmes or how to book training with us or how to become a licensed professional, please feel free to contact us.

Jo Stevens - Director
The National Autistic Society EarlyBird Centre
Barnsley Road
South Yorkshire S75 3JT

Tel: 01226 779218
Fax: 01226 771014
Email: earlybird@nas.org.uk