Advice for families

Useful information while waiting for an assessment

We recognise that waiting for an assessment and support can be hard especially when you can see your child is struggling or showing distressed behaviour (formally known as challenging behaviour).


Autism and ADHD friendly strategies can be helpful for all children.

  • Maintain clear and consistent boundaries so that the child knows what is expected of them and what to expect from you.
  • Keep instructions simple and specific, breaking them down if needed.
  • Give instructions calmly and slowly on what you would like them to do. Please note that some children respond better when they are given a choice and some control over their environment.
  • Allow the child time to process the information, asking them to repeat back the instruction will allow you to see if they have been able to process it. If they are unable to tell you, repeat the process until they are clear what is required of them.
  • A child will understand instructions better if they are guided on what to do instead of what they should not be doing. For example, if a child is shouting indoors you could say ‘Can you speak in a quiet, indoor voice’ instead of saying ‘stop shouting’.
  • Visual aids can help, for example a simple list of what is required in written or picture form. Placing a list somewhere where it can be seen clearly and easily by the child or young person.
  • Make any changes clear to the young person in advance so that they can predict what is going to happen next.
  • Break tasks into smaller chunks with breaks in between to help keep them on task.
  • If your child or young person are finding a task difficult to do, acknowledge this and recognise the effort that they are showing, for example, ‘I can see that this is difficult for you but I can also see how hard you are trying’.
  • Praise and acknowledge their efforts of trying to do something, this helps to reinforce more of the positive. Please note that some children do not like to be praised.
  • Rewards work better than punishment, they reinforce what you would like to see more of, for example, giving extra time for wanted behaviour instead of taking it away for bad behaviour.

Non-urgent advice: More help

For further help and guidance on supporting your child can be found at:

It is also important that you take time to look after yourself, this will help to support your child, particularly when times are difficult. Looking after a child who is struggling to cope can be very draining so self-care will help.

Having an open dialog and regular meetings with school where you can share ideas, challenges and successes with each other is also recommended.

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Page last reviewed: 2 May, 2024