Autism Parent Programme (SWAPP)

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Autistic child and father with healthcare specialistThis page contains information on the SWAPP programme:

What is SWAPP?

SWAPP is a partnership programme between parents and their child’s setting or school that aims to build an understanding of autism and the challenges and delights it can present.

The programme aims to empower families and staff who are closely involved in supporting a child or young person with autism.

Sessions cover all aspects of autism including communication, sensory issues and behaviour.

Who is SWAPP for?

SWAPP is for families of children and young people with autism from preschool age to school year 13. A member of staff from the child or young person’s setting/school is encouraged to attend whenever possible in order to develop a consistent approach around the child or young person. Children and young people themselves do not attend sessions.

  • SWAPP 1 is for families of children in early year’s settings and reception classes and uses the National Autistic Society’s EarlyBird Programme.
  • SWAPP 2 and 3 is the same course and uses the Barnardo’s Cygnet Programme but is geared towards families who have children in school years 1-4 (SWAPP 2) and families of children/young people in school years 5-8 (SWAPP 3). Families will be offered either a SWAPP 2 or 3 as the course content is the same according to the needs of the child and availability of courses.
  • SWAPP 4 courses are for families who have not had any autism related training in Wiltshire for 2 years or more. This course has been designed by professionals in the LA with extensive autism experience and is aimed at older pupils, in school years 9 – 13, looking at how puberty impacts upon autism and covering communication, behaviour, independence, sex and sexuality and mental health and wellbeing.

Does my child have to have a diagnosis of autism?

Yes, SWAPP is for families with children on the autistic spectrum. The child or young person must have a formal written diagnosis before a family can attend the programme.

How long does the programme last?

  • SWAPP 1 involves an introductory session, group sessions and home visits and runs over 12 weeks
  • SWAPP 2, 3 and 4 involve six group sessions usually one each week for 6 weeks
  • Each group session lasts for about 2½ hours. Sessions are usually in mornings from 9.30am-12pm
  • Families and school staff are normally expected to attend all sessions.

Where does it take place?

SWAPP is held in different locations across Wiltshire, usually in a building such as a children’s centre or council building.

Who delivers the sessions?

The sessions are run by two professionals, such as Educational Psychologists, Speech and Language Therapists, Specialist Advisory Teachers, and Early Years Inclusion Officers (SWAPP 1 only) who have training and experience in supporting children and young people with autism.

Who attends the sessions?

Each family will be offered two places for family members and a third place is offered to the child or young person’s setting or school. There will be between 4 and 7 families on each course, and sometimes more families on SWAPP 4 courses.

The family members attending may be parents, carers, grandparents, other relatives or, occasionally non relatives who are closely involved in supporting the child/young person. Grown up siblings are welcome however children do not attend.

School staff may include key workers, teaching assistants or teachers; they should be someone who has a key role in supporting the child or young person in their setting or school.

Due to the nature of the course only those directly involved in supporting the child or young person attend and the group remains the same throughout. We do not have people coming to odd sessions or attending as observers when they do not know the children or young people.

What happens in a SWAPP session?

Each session explores an area of autism such as communication or behaviour. It involves information, ideas and discussions. You will meet other families and be able to share experiences over a cup of tea or coffee. SWAPP sessions are intended to be informal, interesting, interactive and enjoyable. People can opt out of anything they are not comfortable with – no one will be ‘put on the spot’.

What do I need to bring?

SWAPP facilitators will bring everything needed for the course. Each family and school will get copies of the presentation. You may want to bring a pen but everything else you need will be provided.

What does it cost?

There is no charge to families or school staff attending the programme.

What if I have additional needs?

SWAPP facilitators are skilled at supporting all participants to get the most out of the programme. If you have additional needs – for example, if you find it difficult to read, or to speak English; if you yourself are on the autistic spectrum or if you have learning difficulties let us know and we will be able to support you. Alternatively you may choose to bring someone with you to help, for example an interpreter.

How do I get a place?

Families who would like a place can either download the booking form here or if you would like support contact Wiltshire Council on 01225 718095 or by email

Details of forthcoming courses are available on the Wiltshire Council