Here we explain what additional support needs autistic children and young people might have, how they are identified and what to do if they haven’t been identified

We also look at assessments/examinations and education plans

What are additional support needs?

If your child needs support with their education that is more than or different to what is generally provided in mainstream schools and nurseries, they have additional support needs. 

The most common reasons why an autistic child or young person may need additional support include:

How additional support needs are identified

Your local authority (LA) has a legal duty to make sure that your child’s additional support needs are identified and provided for. For most children and young people this will happen through the LA and school’s normal processes for assessing and monitoring learning and development. For example, the class teacher may:

  • notice that a child is experiencing difficulty with the curriculum
  • feel that they are not progressing at the same rate as their peers.

They should then seek advice as to what may help from colleagues, such as support for learning staff. If your child’s needs are still not met after school support strategies have been used then other professionals may become involved. This could be an educational psychologist, speech and language therapist or occupational therapist, for example. 

If your child’s needs have not been identified

If you feel that your LA has not identified your child’s additional support needs, you can make a formal request. This can help to find out whether your child has additional support needs and the type of needs they are. 

Your request must be made in writing and should include reasons why you are making it. You should:
  • be clear about why you are making the request 
  • provide details of previous assessments and diagnoses 
  • explain fully what you feel your child’s needs, difficulties and capabilities are 
  • ask for specific assessments or examinations to be carried out  
  • hand deliver the letter or send it by recorded delivery, make sure you keep a copy 
  • make a note of the date the letter was sent and follow it up if there is no acknowledgement or reply within a reasonable time frame. 
If any request is refused, the LA must let you know why in writing and tell you of your right to request mediation and/or apply for independent adjudication.  

A child making their own request

An eligible child aged 12 years and over can make their own request. They are unable to use the mediation service, but their views should be considered during the process.

Assessments and examinations

In some cases, your LA may arrange one or more assessments and/or examinations to help establish your child’s additional support needs.

You can also request an assessment and/or examination for this purpose or at any time during their education. 

These assessments can be educational, psychological, medical or otherwise. Guidance on education legislation provided to LA’s and other agencies suggests that assessments can also be sought from agencies beyond education. This could be a social work or a voluntary organisation. In fact, you can request a range of multi-disciplinary assessments. 

The request must be made in writing by post or email, and include reasons for the request. It can be included in your request to have your child’s additional support needs identified.

If you know what type of assessment or examination you would like to request, you can ask the LA to carry this out. However, you cannot specify the professional who you would like to assess or examine your child, although you can suggest them. 

Your LA can refuse your request if they deem it to be unreasonable. Possible reasons for this could be that: 

  • your reasons for the request are not clear 
  • it may not be seen as being relevant to your child’s circumstances 
  • there hasn’t been a significant change in your child’s circumstances since an earlier assessment 
  • it may repeat recent assessments already carried out. 

Using the assessment information 

The LA must take any assessment information into account when considering your child’s additional support needs and how they will be met. 

If you have commissioned a report or assessment from an independent source, such as a speech and language therapist or educational psychologist not employed by the local authority or health board, your LA must take the findings of this into consideration.

Once your child’s additional support needs are identified they have a legal responsibility to meet them.  The type and level of support provided to your child will depend on their needs, and may include one or more of the following: 

  • the use of a particular resource or teaching approach eg visual supports, routines, timeouts, de-stressors and sensory resources
  • input from staff within the school/education authority, such as an educational psychologist or support for learning assistant 
  • input from external professionals, such as a social worker, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or voluntary sector provider.

Education plans

Your child may have one or more education plans prepared for them to help meet their additional support needs. These should coordinate the additional help they need and monitor their progress.

A coordinated support plan (CSP) is the only statutory education plan. This means that your local authority (LA) has a legal duty to prepare and coordinate the support detailed in it. They are also obliged to have an annual review of a CSP.

Individualised educational programmes or plans (IEP) are not legal documents. This means that your LA are not obliged to produce one or ensure that your child receives any support outlined in it. However, many schools do so as a form of good practice. Depending on where you live, the IEP may be called something different.

One of the alternative terms is an additional support plan (ASP). 

All plans should consider the support documented in others to encourage communication between the sources of provision and prevent duplication. For example, an education plan should take into account support already provided in a health and social work plan. If your child has more than one statutory plan, they may be contained into a single child’s plan

With or without an education plan, your LA has a duty to meet and monitor your child’s additional support needs.

What should be considered at a review meeting?

  • your child's progress since the last review
  • your child’s additional support needs and whether there has been any significant changes in their needs or circumstances
  • whether objectives that have been set for your child have been met  
  • setting new objectives, including what input is required and who will provide it
  • you and your child's views
  • whether any plan your child has is still necessary. 

Setting objectives

Any objectives set for your child should be SMART, this means they should be: 

  • specific so it is clear what your child should be working towards
  • measurable so that it is clear when the objective has been achieved
  • achievable for your child
  • relevant to your child’s needs and circumstances
  • time-bound (ie for your child achieve by a specified time). 

You should expect to see your child’s objectives change after reviews. If the same objectives are continually rolling over to the next review they are unlikely to be SMART.


How you can influence reviews

  • request an agenda and a list of who will be attending the meeting
  • if someone you would like at the meeting is not attending, then ask if they have or could be invited
  • ask for any relevant information to be circulated with sufficient notice, including your own reports and views
  • ask for minutes to be taken
  • read through your child’s plan, make sure their needs are accurately detailed
  • check minutes of the last meeting for any outstanding actions
  • highlight parts that are out of date, or need changing
  • make a note of any provision that you think is missing and points you want addressed
  • check that objectives are SMART
  • list ideas, requests and questions for the meeting
  • take either a partner, friend or relative as support
  • check the amended plan and notes of the meeting to check that your views have been accurately recorded.

If you have concerns

If you feel that your child is not receiving enough or the right support you may wish to read our information on working together and resolving differences with schools and local authorities. 

Further help from our charity

Further help for parents trying to obtain an appropriate education for their child is available from our Education Rights Service

Useful reading

Supporting children's learning: code of practice. Scottish Government (2017).

autism toolbox. An autism resource for Scottish schools. Scottish Government (2009).

Last reviewed: 10 January 2018.