I recently spotted a story in the news about a health trust looking to cut their diagnostic services for people with ASDs to serve only those who have severe autism. This struck me as absolutely calamitous. Firstly, how does one decide where a person is on the spectrum until they are properly diagnosed? The proposed system is entirely back to front and illogical.

I can only speak from my own experience. For me, diagnosis, ideally early diagnosis, is key. We knew Hardy was not developing as expected, well before his second birthday. We saw a paediatrician when he was two years and one month old. He was diagnosed with an autistic spectrum disorder there and then.

It may sound like an odd thing to say, but it was the best possible thing that could have happened to us. All sorts of services swung into action. Initially Portage was an absolute godsend to us; they also recommended a particular nursery which supported us enormously and helped Hardy to progress really well. They backed us when we decided to delay Hardy's entry to school for a year. And never once said a word about the difficulties it must have caused them to balance their books. The paediatrician also referred us to a number of other services, who have helped Hardy immensely, notably occupational therapy and speech therapy. The result of all this input is that Hardy is coming towards the end of his first year at a mainstream school. It has been more successful than we could ever have imagined.

I'm aware that we've been incredibly lucky. At no point did the paediatrician seem to not believe what we saying. My advice would be to keep a piece of paper somewhere handy, e.g. on the fridge, to note down any behaviours or symptoms that you feel are significant. You are then fully armed when you go to an appointment. If you can give a specific response to a question asked, it's very difficult for them to ignore you! We always went in to later appointments with a list of areas that Hardy had progressed in and areas where we were still struggling. We'd all work through this list and the paediatrician would make suggestions or note down a referral for each.

We've now been signed off from the paediatrician, and although it was a bit scary to be cut loose, it was the right decision. Everything is in place; Hardy is progressing beyond everyone's expectations. I firmly believe it was all down to getting that early diagnosis.

Cara is mum to Hardy, who is five and a half, has an autistic spectrum disorder, a complex language disorder and high levels of anxiety. She is currently taking an extended break from her career as a teacher. She fills her spare time making visual aids and resources for Hardy, and has a house full of PECS cards! She blogs at “Why My Autistic Son is Brilliant” which aims to focus on the positives of ASDs and living with a superhero who has an ASD.