Specialist Support Service for Autism and SEND

The Specialist Support Service offers advice and support to children, young people, families, carers and a range of educational establishments for children with a wide range of special educational needs and / or autism, aged 0 to 19 years.

What support is provided by the Specialist Support Service without a referral?

The following support is provided by the Specialist support Service without a referral:

  • Consultations

Consultations can be made from anyone seeking advice for an individual child. This is an opportunity to seek advice and support from one of our Autism and SEND Practitioners

Consultations are usually for about an hour and are for parents or carers to attend without the child or young person. Appointments are available between 9am and 5pm

How do I request a consultation? 

To request a consultation please email

sss@northamptonshire.gov.uk

It would be helpful if you could give us the following details: Name, address and date of birth of the child or young person and a brief background and what you hope would be the outcome of a consultation. You will then be contacted with dates available.

  • Courses and workshops including Spectrum and Reflections 

Reflections courses - A course for parents to enhance understanding of Autism for a recently diagnosed child up to 7 years old.

Spectrum courses - A course for parents to enhance understanding of Autism for children or young people aged 8 to 19.

A range of other courses addressing different needs.

View courses

How can I check if a child is eligible for support?

The eligibility criteria below has been designed to ensure we support those children and young people most in need. This criteria is linked to the SEND Descriptors for education.

Access to the Specialist Support Service is not based on diagnosis.

Each referral will need to evidence that the child is showing these areas of need either at home or in their mainstream setting, school or educational establishment.

Children under 2 

A request for our involvement may be appropriate if the child has:

  • More than 6 months delay in any area of development
  • Moderate, severe or profound hearing loss impacting on development and has been prescribed hearing aid
  • Moderate, significant or very significant visual loss, impacting on development. Support required for mobility and life skills
  • Moderate or severe multi-sensory impairment with impact on development e.g. hearing and visual impairment.
  • Physical and/or medical difficulties that require extensive equipment, close monitoring and/or high levels of adult support
  • An identified specific need that you have been advised is likely to need ongoing specialist input

You will be asked when you make a referral which needs the child has and to provide supporting information and evidence.

Children 2-4

Please note - If a child in reception year, please refer to the 5-19 eligibility criteria below.

At least 2 areas of need from the 5 listed below will need to be evidenced when you make a referral:

  • Play, cognition and learning
  • Communication
  • Interaction
  • Sensory and /or physical needs
  • Social, emotional and mental health

Below are some areas of specific need that might present under each category. These lists are not exhaustive but may be useful for you to think about when making a referral:

Sensory or physical needs

  • Moderate, severe or profound hearing loss impacting on development, wears prescribed hearing aid (s)
  • Moderate or severe visual loss impacting on development. Support required for mobility and self-help skills
  • Moderate or severe multi-sensory impairment with impact on development e.g. hearing and visual impairment.
  • Physical or medical difficulties that require varied and/or specialist equipment, adapted resources and/or high levels of adult support and monitoring
  • Physical independence is impaired and requires input from relevant professionals
  • High levels of adult support for self-care needs
  • Severe medical difficulties that require controlled medication and intensive intervention throughout the day
  • Physical or medical difficulties that put the safety and well-being of the child at severe risk and require intensive monitoring
  • Continuous loss of physical skills

If the child is showing only a need in the physical or sensory area, a referral to other teams including physiotherapy or the Sensory Impairment Service may be more appropriate in the first instance.

Communication

  • Expressive and receptive language significantly or severely delayed or disordered requiring support from SALT
  • Additional or intensive support required to teach and manage alternative communication systems
  • Loss of previously demonstrated communication skills (spoken or signed)
  • Limited understanding of what is said or signed (age and first language taken into account)

If the child is showing ONLY a need in speech and language, a referral to a Speech and Language therapist may be more appropriate in the first instance.

Interaction

  • Significant, persistent or severe difficulties following social norms, e.g. eye contact, turn taking
  • Significant and persistent difficulties or inability to form relationships evidenced by lack of or no recognition of self or others
  • Significant difficulties or no understanding of social boundaries in play or other activities
  • Significant, persistent difficulties or inability to tolerate social interaction
  • Actively withdraws over a period of time
  • Significant, frequent or severe high levels of anxiety at times of change and / or difficulties in regulating emotions
  • Frequent, significant or severe difficulties in following adult directed activities
  • Activities remain at sensory motor, self-stimulatory level and/or are self-absorbed or repetitious to the exclusion of other activities

Play, cognition and learning

  • Developmental delay in milestones of, approximately:
            Under 3 years old – more than 6 months delay
            3 years old + – more than 12 months delay
            4 years old + – more than 18 months delay
    Use best fit model with regard to the Early years Foundation Stage Development Matters age/stage bands and chronological age and /or other developmental checklists
  • Difficulties in retaining concepts over time
  • Child losing skills
  • Significantly or severely restricted play
  • Frequent repetitive play, restricted interests and significant or severe difficulties with imaginative play
  • An identified specific need that you have been advised is likely to need ongoing specialist input

Social, emotional and mental health

  • Significant and persistent separation difficulties
  • Severe attachment difficulties affecting development e.g. attachment to key carers not securely established
  • Reluctance to engage in activities by withdrawing or challenging behaviour or unable to sustain activities without significant, consistent adult attention and intervention
  • Significant, frequent, persistent, unpredictable, unusual and / or demanding behaviours which may affect child or others safety and require adult intervention
  • Significant, severe or persistent difficulties in turn taking and social interaction
  • Persistently presents a danger to self and others and destroys materials.
  • Totally withdrawn from activities over a period of time and severe changes in behaviour and play – frequent high anxiety levels
  • Significant concerns raised re; poor growth, weight change, social, mental and emotional health that require advice from other agencies and are impacting on development
  • Child may have suffered from acute trauma or abuse which renders them extremely vulnerable and is impacting on development. Needs a high level of multi-agency involvement over a sustained period.

Priority cases when making a referral

Additional priority for allocation will be given to children who meet any of the following:

  • Those who have a social worker
  • Those who are at risk of exclusion from their education provision
  • Those who are on reduced timetables in their education provision

Please supply this information when you make a referral. 

Note - If the child is “looked after” by the local authority, this will count as an eligible need and if the child also presents with needs linked to social, emotional and mental health (see above) access to the county’s Educational Psychology service will be provided.

Access to the Specialist Support Service may also be secured if the child has any other additional needs, not necessarily relating to the child’s social, emotional and mental health.

What happens if a child is not showing these needs?

If the child is not showing these needs above, a referral to our service is unlikely to result in individual contact. In this case you should seek support from professionals already known to the child e.g. GP, Health Visitor, nursery, children’s centre.

For children and young people aged 5-19, they must be showing needs in at least 3 out of the following 5 areas:
  • Cognition and learning
  • Communication
  • Interaction
  • Physical, medical and sensory
  • Social, emotional and mental health

You will need to provide more information and evidence about these needs when you make a referral. Lack of information may result in a delay in your request for our involvement or a decision that the child may not be eligible.

Specific areas of need that require a referral

Below are some areas of specific need that might present under each category. These lists are not exhaustive but may be useful for you to consider when referring a child.

The mind maps may also help you to identify areas for referral:

Cognition and learning

  • Severe delay meeting milestones or loss of milestones
  • May have difficulties with other areas e.g. motor skills, organisation skills, sequencing , visual and/or auditory perception, social or emotional skills
  • Evidence that the child or young person has significant difficulties retaining concepts over time
  • The gap between the child or young person’s performance and that of his or her peers is significantly wider than would be normally expected for his or her age
  • Evidence of persistent repetitive play, restricted interests and severe difficulties in imaginative play
  • Unable to sustain activities without significant, consistent adult attention and intervention
  • Revision of the differentiated classroom provision for the child or young person’s education has not resulted in the expected progress towards achieving learning, pastoral and social interaction targets
  • Evidence of high priority having to be given to the child or young person’s behaviour in the planning of most classroom activities and the organisation of his or her learning environment

Communication

  • Has significant difficulty understanding verbal instructions, and explanations require simplification and visual or experiential support
  • Literal use or interpretation of speech, rigidity and inflexibility of thought processes, resistance to change, solitary play and highly-focussed interests resulting in significant difficulties to engage at home or in school and to access the curriculum
  • Difficulty processing and retaining verbal communication and or/difficulty understanding body language, facial expression and gesture leading to significant impact on the child or young person’s ability to interact
  • Requires intensive support to manage alternative and/or supplementary communication systems
  • Child or young person has limited understanding of what is said or signed (age and first language to be taken into account)
  • There is a significant discrepancy between the child or young person’s expressive language and verbal comprehension skills, or between his or her language and cognitive abilities
  • Responses to verbal and non-verbal communication are frequently inappropriate

Interaction

  • Impaired social development, rigidity of behaviour and thought and communications are enduring, consistently impeding his or her learning and leading to severe difficulties in functioning
  • Difficulty understanding body language, facial expression and gesture leading to significant impact on the child or young person’s ability to interact
  • Responses to verbal and non-verbal communication are frequently inappropriate
  • Significant difficulties in using language for learning and/or social interaction although other areas of expressive language appear to be age appropriate
  • No understanding of social boundaries in play or other activities including social interaction
  • Inability to understand social rules and expectations of acceptable behaviour in regards to communication and interaction

Physical, medical and sensory

  • Has a chronic condition, potential degenerative condition, newly acquired condition or has special educational needs in additional to physical needs
  • Has significant sensory processing difficulties which impact on behaviour, attention and coordination
  • Severe inability to process and/or regulate sensory input from their own body and their environment which is impacting on performance and understanding
  • Severe difficulties with the ability to function independently in the school environment and everyday life

For children and young people with significant hearing or visual impairment you will need to refer separately to the Sensory Impairment Service

Social, emotional and mental health

  • May be withdrawn and isolated, generally seeking too little adult attention with limited or selective communication , may not communicate feelings
  • Severe and persistent levels of anxiety requiring intensive support to enable emotional regulation
  • The child or young person can exhibit highly atypical behaviour such as: obsessive, challenging and/or withdrawn behaviours, inappropriate use of language, abnormal responses to sensory experiences and signs of distress requiring significant adjustments
  • Behaviours result in significant risk of harm to self and others , even with close adult support , leading to extreme social isolation , vulnerability and disengagement
  • Persistent difficulties regulating own emotions and recognising those of others hence has an inability to form relationships leading to extreme isolation and disengagement
  • Extreme responses leading to an inability to engage with any formal learning situations
  • Difficulties with interpersonal communication or relationships, reluctant to share, reluctant to participate in social groups, distracts other children or young people, careless with learning materials and unwillingness to acknowledge or accept responsibility for his/her actions
  • Child or young person may exhibit difficult to manage behaviour in a variety of learning and/or social settings within the school
  • Takes physical risks and engages in situations that have potential to harm. Reasonable force is often necessary to safeguard the child or young person and others
  • High levels of anxiety are beginning to impact negatively on attendance (below 85%)
  • Young person has difficulties with language and abstract concepts, which is impacting on his/her ability to understand the developmental changes that are occurring during puberty , thus unable to deal with the emotional and physical changes within his/her own body
  • Young person has difficulties with language, abstract concepts and interpreting the views of others which is negatively impacting on appropriate sexual behaviours and interactions
  • May have suffered from acute trauma or abuse which renders them extremely vulnerable and is impacting on development needing a high level of multi- agency involvement over a sustained period

Early help

If a child is eligible and their needs are impacting on family functioning, it is possible that the service offer made to the child and family will be an Early Help Caseworker who will act as a lead professional for an Early Help Assessment.

Priority cases when making a referral

Additional priority for allocation will be given to children or young people who meet any of the following and you are requested to supply this information on the online form:

  • Those who have a social worker
  • Those who are at risk of exclusion from their education provision
  • Those who are on reduced timetables in their education provision

If the Specialist Support Service have been involved with the child or young person in the previous 6 months, we are unlikely to accept a further request for our involvement at this time

What happens if a child is not showing these needs?

If the child is not showing these needs above, a referral to our service is unlikely to result in individual contact. In this case you should seek support from professionals already known to the child e.g. GP, Health Visitor, nursery, children’s centre.

How do I make a referral?

Schools and other professionals

Please complete the form below to refer a child to this service:

Refer to Specialist Support Service (professionals)

Parents and carers

Please complete the form to refer your child to this service:

Refer to Specialist Support Service (parents)

Child or young person

Please complete the form to request access to the service for yourself if you are 16 or over:

Request help from Specialist Support Service for yourself

What happens when a child is referred?

Once we have received a referral, a panel meeting takes place to agree whether the child is eligible and to decide the best service offer based on the information provided and further assessment.

These panel meetings take place fortnightly around the region.

What support is offered by the Specialist Support Service?

The child or young person's family at home or staff in mainstream educational establishments will be supported with:

  • visits
  • observations
  • consultations
  • support or advice

Specific support includes:

  • Portage home teaching by an Early Years Portage Practitioner or Portage Volunteer.
  • Support to set targets or outcomes and monitor progress.
  • Support to set strategies and interventions.
  • Advice or support at home to young person regarding specific area of need.
  • Loan of toys or equipment to encourage development of skills.
  • Give or share resources to support interventions.
  • Support and advice at times of transition for example when a child is moving to a new setting / school / educational establishment.
  • Advise and support with the Statutory Assessment process or criteria for Education Health and Care Plans.
  • Assessment of learning needs and development in Early Years.
  • Assessment of learning environment and development of appropriate interventions and strategies.
  • Observation, report of recommendations then cease involvement.
  • Signposting to other services and support.
  • Early Help Assessment (EHA) led by Early Help SEND Caseworker to act as Lead Professional to support child / young person / family from 5 to 19 years at Tier 3 of Thresholds and Pathways with intervention (usually between 6 to 9 months), with view to building community capacity and handover of EHA to another professional.
  • Monitoring of care or support package.
  • Occasional home sessions to support transition of skills as required by the family if support is setting, school or educational establishment based.
  • Occasional support and advice sessions at mainstream setting/school/educational establishment or special school consultation if support is home based.
  • Workshops for parents/carers in already agreed topics – with a planned programme of dates across the county.

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