EarlyBird is for parents whose child has received a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and is of pre-school age (not yet of statutory school age).

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 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.

The NAS EarlyBird Centre is based in South Yorkshire. However, many areas of the UK now run the programme for local families.