Step-Children - Worried and under-informed

Hello everyone,

To start I would like to say I am not trying to undermine anyone that I am discussing, however I do have to disclose some information - not personal - that does give a back story to the reason I am posting.

I am engaged to a soldier, he has an ex and three children. One of which his ex 'claims' has autism. And is working with the school on this, as my fiancé has contact with the school they have told him through email that they are doing nothing to support a diagnosis of that as they have never been informed that he is autistic. I mention that my fiance is a soldier because he is actually deployed and cannot contact the doctors to find out if his son has actually been diagnosed with autism as his ex only ever says autism but never specifies where he is on the spectrum and when he brings it up she blocks him and doesn't allow him to talk to them and hasn't for months now. We were going to wait until he is back to speak to the doctors however she is now saying that the youngest is now also autistic. Again blocked before he can ask any more questions. All three live in England with their mother and we are currently based in Scotland - while he is deployed. 

Please note I use the word 'claim' because nothing either of the boys have done when we have them would point to this after reading countless forms and NHS websites. I legally cannot do anything as I do not have parental responsibility being only engaged to their father. 

So what I want to ask, now that you know a little history;

  • What is the process of diagnosing a child(5) and possibly a toddler(2) with autism in England?
  • What evidence would his ex have been supplied to let her inform his school etc. that he is autistic? Assuming she can't just turn up one day and say ...'oh buy the way..'
  • Can someone, in plain English, explain if either of them can be diagnosed as just autistic or is that just an overall term for the many individual diagnoses? e.g Asperger's?(apologises if spelt wrong) 
  • Can my fiance, their biological father, with parental responsibility and named on all three of their birth certificates, get a copy of any documentation? If so, how?
  • And any other information you think might be helpful.

Please again note that I am not trying to bad mouth their mother, I have never questioned her parenting ability nor her love of her children and I'm still not. They are her children and I would never try to change that. However the picking and choosing of information she shares needs to stop because if they are somewhere on the spectrum we need to know so that when we have them we are not doing anything we shouldn't and causing unnecessary stress for the boys. Because of her picking and choosing I would love to know if there was a way that the doctors that have diagnosed the boys can share this information with their father so he isn't missing anything.

  • A parent with full Parental Rights has a legal right to access ALL information about his children including their medical information, he may need to enforce this right through his lawyer if it's being withheld by his ex. (He should already have a Parental Rights Agreement if he and his ex. have been to court re. Access Rights or Custody.) He also has a right to make appointments with the children's school and to have full access to all of their school records (from the school itself) including any extra measures planned to help with children's education and a say / input into what these might entail.

    An autism diagnosis would not necessarily specify where on the spectrum a person is. Asperger's is a term that is being phased out of medical terminology although it is still widely used and identified with by many (such as here on this forum). 

    An autism diagnosis (if not pursued via the school's Educational Psychologist) can be pursued with referral from a GP. The child's father can ask the GP for the details of this referral.

    The local authority Social Work team can also help parents to pursue an autism assessment I believe (?).

    A referral usually takes quite some time, it's not unheard of for parents on this forum to say they have had to wait a year, or more, from the time of the referral to the actual assessment date. After the assessment it usually takes just a few weeks for the report to be sent to the parent(s) and GP and (usually) the school.

    An autism assessment for a child would usually NEED to involve the school as the assessors want as wide a picture as possible of the difficulties the child is having. It would seem strange for an assessment to have gone ahead with no involvement from either the father or the school!  

    In most areas (not all) it is usually preferred to wait until a child is at least 3 years old before assessment for autism because children younger than this do naturally differ a huge amount in their development. 

    I hope this helps (?) and has answered your questions. As for "Any other information you think might be helpful."? If the father doesn't have a Parental Rights Agreement, get one! 

  • Hi NAS37177,

    Endymion has given a lot of good advice to which I would just add:

    If you want to learn more about the process of diagnosing a child with autism, you might want to have a look at our 'Diagnosis for children' page here on the site -

    With regards to the school, the best person to talk to is probably the Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO), which I believe all schools are required to have, and who oversees special education needs in general. If they require evidence of an ASD diagnosis, a letter from your GP or from the doctor or doctors who did the autism assessment ought to be sufficient.

    Best wishes,

    Ross - mod