COVID-19: Our New Ways of Working (Autism Team)

As the news of COVID-19 continues to develop, we have worked hard to create the safest possible environment for our children and families as well as staff in these difficult times.

We have finalised these plans and want to tell you about how we are working during the pandemic.
As a service, we aim to work jointly with children/young people and their families to plan an assessment process that is right for them, this means that not every child will have exactly the same journey through our service however we have developed a pathway that will form the basis for most of our assessments. The Case Lead for each assessment will work with families individually to make any adaptions to this process that may be needed.

Our new process:

1. Children will continue to be taken off the waiting list in strict date order – when your child reaches the top of the waiting list they will be allocated to a Case Lead. Your child’s Case Lead will be the main point of contact for the family or other professionals who contact the Specialist Assessment Service during the assessment process. 

2. Starting your Child’s Assessment: your child’s Case Lead will telephone you to discuss your child’s assessment and start making a plan with you. In order to limit the number of face-to-face appointments needed, but to make sure we can obtain good quality information, we will be carrying out some appointments using video calls. We understand this may not be suitable for all families so your Case Lead will discuss different options available and include this in your child’s assessment plan. If you have not used Video links before please do not worry about this as it will all be explained carefully to you. We will also discuss with your whether you would prefer to receive and send documents for your child’s assessment by post or email.

3. Following this phone call, we will send you a letter/email with a developmental history questionnaire for you to complete. This is the first stage of our assessment process for all children and we will not be able to continue with your child’s assessment until we have received this questionnaire. If you have any difficulty completing the form you can speak to your Case Lead and they will be able to support you with completing it.

4. Information from other Professionals: While we are waiting for you to complete this form your Case Lead will review the information that was included in the referral and, with your permission, contact your child’s school and any other professionals who have been involved since the referral was made to request updated information.

5. Developmental History Appointment: When we have received all this information your Case Lead will contact you to arrange a date for your first appointment – this will usually be a video call with parents/carers. Your child will not need to be present. This appointment is to discuss your child’s early development and their current strengths and areas of difference. We will use the developmental questionnaire you completed as the basis for a more detailed conversation about your child. These appointments can vary in length, we may be able to discuss everything we need in one session or we may need to arrange a follow up appointment to finish the conversation.

6. First Appointment with your Child: Once we have completed the developmental history with parents/carers we will arrange a first appointment with your child. This will usually be a video appointment. The appointment may be with your Case Lead or with a different member of the team. In some cases two members of the team may join the video call. Your Case Lead will discuss and agree with you who will be present before the appointment takes place. We will send information about the appointment to you and your child so you know what to expect.

  • For younger children: To help us to understand how your child plays and interacts we may ask you to set up some toys to play with them. We will discuss this with you in detail before the appointment.
  • For older children: We will talk to your child about the things they like and are good at, and anything they don’t like or need help with. We will talk about friends, what they think about school and other places they go to.

7. After this appointment, we will discuss with you what the next step in the assessment will be. This will be different for each child and your Case Lead will discuss what they are thinking and the reasons for this. Possible options for next steps include;

  • Further video appointments
  • A face-to-face appointment
  • A feedback appointment to conclude the assessment.

8. Face-to-face Appointments: If a face-to-face appointment is required you will be invited to attend Chelmsley Wood Primary Care Centre. We have a number of safety measures in place for families attending appointments and these will be discussed with you in full before you attend. 

9. Feedback Appointment: When we feel we are at a point where it is possible to conclude your child’s assessment we will arrange a feedback appointment for you and your child. This will usually be a video appointment. At this appointment we will discuss the outcome of the assessment and any recommendations that are made. We will also signpost you to organisations which may be able to offer further support.

10. After your Child’s Assessment: Following the feedback appointment your child’s assessment will be complete. We will write a report to summarise the assessment findings and recommendations and, with parent/carer consent, we will share this report with you and any professionals involved with your child. Your child will then be discharged from the Specialist Assessment Service.

The Specialist Assessment Service is a multi-disciplinary team. Throughout the assessment process your child’s Case Lead will discuss the assessment information with other members of the team and may ask them to speak with you or your child as part of the assessment. We will always explain to you what will be happening and our reasons why.

This is a brand new way of working for us but we are confident that we can gather good quality information needed to complete your child’s assessment in as safe a way as possible. For a very small number of children this may not be possible and we will always discuss the situation with you and agree a plan if this is the case for you and your child.

Specialist Assessment Service – Frequently Asked Questions for New ways of working – last updated September 2020

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