Overseas enquirers often ask whether they can access diagnostic or therapeutic services, or specialist and non-specialist schools, in the United Kingdom. This page addresses these questions.


It’s usually difficult get a diagnosis in the UK if you live overseas.

Specialist professional knowledge of autism is not as widespread as we would like and this leads to long waiting lists for doctors who are skilled in making a diagnosis. 

Also, most doctors work within the National Health Service (NHS) that is funded by taxation and so are unable to accept referrals from overseas.

We can provide details of private diagnosticians for parents who are able to pay. 

Treatment and therapy

People from overseas often contact us to ask it they can bring their children to the UK for therapeutic treatment. 

There are many different approaches used to help autistic children, so you need to know what you are looking for. 

It would be extremely difficult for parents from overseas to access therapies for their child through the NHS. However, many are available privately. If you are interested in a particular approach, we may be able to supply you with the details of an appropriate practitioner.  

Read more about approaches, therapies and interventions.

Specialist schools 

Another question we often get asked if whether children from overseas can access their education in the UK. 

There are a range of specialist schools in Britain for autistic children and young people. These are run by either local authorities (LAs) or independent organisations.   

The majority of these schools, including The National Autistic Society's, don’t accept private fee-paying pupils. Places are funded by the LA in which the child lives and so a child or young person has to have official residential status in Britain in order to attend.

In most cases, it’s not be possible for parents to send their child to school in this country if they are not living here. 

Even if a child becomes resident in Britain there is no guarantee that:

  • the LA would agree to send them to a school with expertise in autism
  • there is a vacancy available for them.

Parents from overseas also ask if it is possible to send their child to a specialist school for only a short time to learn basic skills.  

Whilst educational strategies can help autistic children and young people, time is needed for the child to settle at school and for teaching staff to identify the right strategies and carry them out for the length of time needed for them to be effective. A short term placement is not appropriate.

Non-specialist and Fee paying schools

An option for some children from overseas may be schools that will allow private funded pupils or a non-specialist school. 
Our helpline can provide you with details of the few specialist schools for autistic children and young people that accept private fee paying pupils. 
Parents willing to consider non-specialist schools may find it useful to read the independent and/or good school guides. 

Further help from our charity

The National Autistic’s society’s helpline

Our list of autism charities around the world.

Our online shop lists a range of useful titles that can be ordered directly from us. 

You may also find it useful to become a member of the NAS so that you receive regular updates through Your Autism Magazine

Useful websites

Government information - UK Visas and Immigration.

Citizens Advice – Immigration law and rights

Last reviewed: 14 February 2017.