For any parent, having their child diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder is a devastating blow.

The feelings of loss, guilt, anger and bewilderment can be overwhelming.

There is rising panic and frustration as the bureaucratic wheels within health and education seems to turn in slow motion.

Overnight we are expected to become expert in the subject itself, education law and the benefit system as well as coping with what can be extremely difficult behaviour.

Often it seems that we are alone in our battle for appropriate services. Every child is different - the complexity of the condition means that it is not always possible to give an accurate prognosis.

There are many therapies and approaches to autism, but one size does not fit all.

However everyone agrees that early intervention is crucial.

For organisations like ours the important thing is to have all the information available to help parents make informed decisions about which therapies, type of education etc suits their child and their family.

We also need to make sure that parents have access to training so that they can understand their own child and their condition; this is critical if they are to give them the best possible start in life.

Autism, it seems, is the new black; it's now sexy - not only for academics but for the media. Parents are quite often bombarded with headlines about "new" therapies and "breakthrough" interventions.

There are endless books written on the subject; some excellent but, sadly, some utter dross. It seems everyone is searching for the autism holy grail - the "cure" and the message parents often pick up is that unless we go for whichever therapy is advocated, we are a bad parent.

Some of these therapies are extremely expensive and out of reach of many parents and they have not necessarily been independently evaluated.

Although one should not dismiss the benefits of such therapies we perhaps need to take a step back and maybe look closer to home.

It is true that provision is patchy and at times difficult to access; parents often have little energy left to fight for appropriate services.

But on a positive note, much good work is being done at child development centres across the region, taking the best from many therapies and last year a new information pack was launched by the West Midlands SEN Regional Partnership.

The aim is to give all parents as much information as possible at the point of diagnosis. But, crucially, more Government funding is urgently needed so that all of these children and their families have access to the best possible care, irrespective of postcode or bank balance.

* For more information contact Autism West Midlands on 0121 450 7575 or visit Linda Woodcock is Family Support Services Manager, Autism West Midlands