Improving diagnostic and assessment services for autistic spectrum disorders.
Various studies have highlighted parental dissatisfaction with the diagnostic and assessment services available for children with autistic spectrum disorders. In N. Ireland these appear to be poorly developed compared to other regions of the United Kingdom.
A consultative research project was undertaken with the main stake-holders, namely parents, professionals working in education, health and social services, representatives from provider Education Boards and HSS Trusts and commissioners of health and social services.
Focus groups involving nearly 100 parents and professionals were held throughout the province along with written questionnaires that were completed by over 100 service personnel. The emerging concensus was validated through an iterative process of meetings and comments on draft documents produced by a selected reference group.
Ten principles underpinning assessment services were identified and recommendations developed for improvements to services. Particular attention focused on the provision of local services; developing staff skills, the form
of home-based supports and the nature and role of specialised services.