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Raising concerns and getting a diagnosis

When parents identify that they have concern about their child's health or development they should visit or speak to their GP, midwife, health visitor or school nurse.

These health professionals will discuss your concerns. Your child's needs will be evaluated and a decision made as to whether more specialist assessment is required.

They may refer you to a health professional or team who may specialise in assessing and diagnosing child health problems. These specialists will complete a more in-depth assessment.

Some of the health professionals involved in your child's assessment may include:

  • A paediatrician - a doctor who specialises in treating children.
  • A speech and language therapist - a specialist in recognising and treating communication and/or eating and swallowing problems.
  • An occupational therapist - a specialist in sensory, functional and everyday life skills.
  • A physiotherapist - a specialist in motor development and physical problems.
  • CAMHS - specialist NHS mental health services that focus on the emotional or behavioural needs of children and young people. They are multidisciplinary teams
  • A psychologist - a health professional with a psychology degree, plus further training and qualifications in psychology.
  • A psychiatrist - a medically qualified doctor with further training in psychiatry.

Once the specialist has completed their assessment they may be able to diagnose the problem themselves, refer to another specialist for their assessment or send your child for tests or investigations. The specialist will explain fully to you their decision and the next steps. Some health problems are easily identified, others are more complex and need more in-depth assessments and investigations.

For many children with special educational needs there is not a specific diagnosis to be made, rather a list of strengths and difficulties, and help should be targeted at the difficulties. An accurate assessment of these difficulties is therefore important and may involve several professionals from health as well as other services such as education and social care.

The priority is to meet the needs of your child, rather than rush to a diagnosis (unless the diagnosis is obvious). Your child can access interventions and services without a confirmed diagnosis. Some of these services are included in the Local Offer. The health professional involved in your child's care will provide you with information to help you to understand fully.

For more information on specific health problems please visit NHS Choices (opens in a new window)