The NHS plays a part of all our lives. For children and young-people with SEND - or those who might have SEND - the involvement of NHS services is often crucial and required at both school and home. Everyone involved with children and young people should be mindful of working together to seek the best outcomes.

From an early age, health visitors and school nurses will help to identify what support and interventions might be needed. This will include referrals for assessments to identify specific special educational needs, disabilities or other conditions. The assessment processes and pathways can be lengthy and difficult to navigate.

Below is a description of some conditions and how the NHS - and other services - can work together to support you or your child.

The autism (ASD) assessment pathway

Autism, or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is a wide-ranging condition affecting an individual's ability to communicate and socially interact with others. Autism can manifest itself in many ways - often, an individual may not realise they 'are on the spectrum' until much later in life.

Autism is children and young-people can be difficult to identify, and seeking a diagnosis can take many years.

Your school or educational setting may consider referring you to the ASDAT (Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment Team) which is managed by the NHS Community Paediatrics Service, based at New Street Health Centre, Barnsley. You can also find the Autism Spectrum Disorder Assessment Team on Facebook.

If you feel that your child, or you (if you are 16-25), might have autism, consider speaking to your school or educational setting to ask for a referral to be made. Your school or educational setting will then complete a form, with your input, to describe what difficulties you might have.

Consider including some evidence to support your referral, this could be any of the following:

  • reports from an early age to now
  • a personal statement on how you find certain things difficult
  • reports from your school or educational setting
  • descriptions of the difficulties you or your child have with day-to-day things such as shopping, personal care and interacting with other people

Conditions such as ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder) or PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) are often linked with ASD.

The ADHD, ADD or other similar condition assessment pathway

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sometimes referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), is a condition described as an Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) need. It is one of the four broad areas of SEND as described in the SEND Code of Practice.

An individual within this group of conditions often find staying on track with a task difficult. They may seem very energetic or be quick to change moods.

The assessment and ongoing support of individuals with SEMH difficulties such as ADHD, are supported by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) NHS Service. 

Your school or educational setting may consider referring you to CAMHS for an assessment. If you feel that your child, or yourself (16 years old and above) might have this or similar condition, consider speaking to your school or educational setting and ask for a referral to be made.

Learning difficulties - dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia

Some children may find particular aspects of learning and school-life difficult. These difficulties can be categorised under a broad definition of learning difficulties.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia - a condition that can present challenges beyond reading. For example, the processing and organising of information in a classroom setting can be difficult. Left unidentified, a difficulty such as dyslexia can have knock-on effects including behavioural challenges, issues with self-esteem and problems with social interaction.

If you feel that your child; or you; might have a learning difficulty - speak to your school's SENCO and ask about an assessment. This assessment may include a 'screening test', which might then give further indication of difficulty. An educational setting has a duty to identify what educational needs could be present, and can refer you to an Educational Psychologist if required to conduct a formal assessment.