For parents, it can be difficult to know when to be concerned about a child’s development. It can also be hard to know what to try and for how long before seeking professional advice and support. Once you have decided that a child may need some specialist assessment or support it can then be a challenge to know how to get that support.
About the new pathway
We have worked with parents and a range of partners in health, education and social care to create a pathway of early intervention and support for children who may have developmental difficulties. We have mapped out the pathway of assessment should a child or young person be referred into either community health services or the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) for an assessment of a possible neurodevelopmental difficulty or disorder. This may be a condition such as autism or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a learning disability or another developmental condition.
However, just because a child may have been referred to this pathway does not necessarily mean they will go through all the steps of the pathway or that they will receive a diagnosis of a neurodevelopmental difficulty or disorder. It just means they and their family will be able to get the right help at the right time from the right professionals and services, to support their child’s development.
If you have concerns or need help
If you have concerns about your child’s development and think that it is possible they have a neurodevelopmental difficulty, the pathway signposts to a wide range of information and support services available that can be accessed and tried before the need to seek help from a professional like a GP, health visitor or from a child’s nursery or school.
For example, if you are concerned about your child’s sleep, behaviour, sensory issues or speech, language and communication, information can be found by clicking on the sections related to these on the Local Offer NDD web page
If you still have concerns
If after accessing the information and support available you still have concerns about your child’s development, a referral to a specialist professional can be made. Either to the Community Paediatric team - medical professionals specialising in children’s health, or to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) - these are specialists who support children or young people with mental health needs and their families.
Seeking a referral for assessment
The best way to seek a referral is through your child’s nursery or school – you can speak to your child’s teacher, special educational needs co-ordinator or family worker. Alternatively, speak to your GP, health visitor or social worker if your child has one.
If your child is under 13 the Community Paediatric team will consider the referral. If your child is 13 or over, it will be considered by CAMHS.
What happens after referral?
Once the referral is received it will be ‘triaged’; this means that a group of professionals will consider the referral information and will decide which would be the best course of action for the child or young person.
This way of working will help speed up processes and help ensure your child is assessed by the most appropriate professional or service at the right time. It can help prevent your child being passed from one service to another which can cause a delay in getting the support they need.
Further information may be required to make decisions and so whoever referred the child may be asked for this. A lot of work has gone into developing the referral forms to ensure that all the required information is there and no delays are caused by not having the right information. This is why it is important that GPs, schools and parents work together to ensure that all the necessary information goes into the referral.
At the triage stage, it may become apparent that your child does not require a specialist assessment from the Community Paediatric service or CAMHs, however there may be other services that could help. Information about these will be provided.
If your child’s difficulties appear quite complex and it is not clear which service can best assess their needs, the referral will be considered at a Complex Case Meeting. These are attended by a Community Paediatrician, an Educational Psychologist, a clinician from CAMHS and a member of the Early Help Team. They will decide which service would be best to carry out an assessment, and you will be informed.
If neither of these two options apply, your child’s referral will progress to a specialist assessment by CAMHS. Your child will go through a CAMHS pathway to access the most appropriate clinician or part of the service in CAMHs or, by the Community Paediatric service.
What happens at the specialist assessment?
A specialist assessment by the Community Paediatric team can involve several professionals from different areas; there may be a specialist nurse, a speech and language therapist, a paediatrician, an occupational therapist, a psychologist or another education specialist.
The assessment will look at all of your child’s strengths and difficulties to provide a full developmental profile. Thinking, learning and functional skills will be assessed. You will be sent more information about what to expect when they receive an appointment.
What happens after an assessment?
Following an appointment or appointments there will be an outcome meeting where you can discuss the assessment, a plan or next steps, and the support that is available for you and your child.
It may be that your child receives a specific diagnosis or diagnoses and if this is the case, interventions, reviews and discharge plans will be discussed. You will receive information about all the support that is available locally.
If no specific diagnosis is made you will be reminded about where you can go to get support to help your child with their development or learning.
If you or someone you know is concerned about a child’s development, use Luton’s NDD Pathway to get information, advice and support.