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Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what guidance is given to local authorities to assist them in developing best practice on the disabled children’s module of the National Service Framework 2004 when identifying autistic spectrum disorder; and if he will make a statement. (85008)

Standard 8 of the National Service Framework (NSF) for Children, Young People and Maternity Services, targeted at local authorities and others, is for disabled children and young people and those with complex health needs. Children and young people receive co-ordinated, high-quality child and family-centred services that are based on assessed needs, promote social inclusion and, where possible, enable them and their families to live ordinary lives.

The NSF has been supported by a number of exemplars, including one on autism. This sets out an optimal pathway for a boy with autism, beginning at the age of three, from initial concern and contact with primary care, through a developmental and a multi-agency assessment, the drawing up of a family support plan and early educational intervention and on to the transitions between primary and secondary school and secondary school and adult life.

Local authorities have a duty under the Education Act 1996, where necessary, to identify, assess and make suitable provision for children with special educational needs (SEN), including those with autistic spectrum disorders. When doing so, local authorities have to have regard to the SEN Code of Practice. “Autistic Spectrum Disorders: Good Practice Guidance” (2002, Department for Education and Skills and Department of Health) is also available for local authorities. It includes pointers to good practice on identification.