About the Specialist Children’s Assessment Centres

The SCAC adopts a multidisciplinary approach to providing specialist developmental assessment, diagnosis and intervention. The centres work closely with community-based colleagues and partner agencies (such as education) to deliver a high standard of service. SCAC services are designed to meet commissioner specifications and hold the needs of children and young people, and families under our care at the centre of what we do.

SCAC practice is informed by NICE guidelines, good practice principles and service-user feedback. In keeping with national changes such as the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) legislation and local responses such as the Devon Assessment Framework (DAF), the centres prioritise close liaison with colleagues in community and education settings, clear outcome plans and the incorporation of ‘single record’ principles and family centred flexibility into its practice.

How can we help?

The children and young people who attend our centres have a range of complex neuro-developmental difficulties including:

  • Communication disorders
  • Autistic spectrum disorders
  • Coordination and movement concerns (including cerebral palsy and other motor difficulties)
  • Genetic and chromosomal problems
  • Cognitive and learning disabilities
  • Multi-sensory impairment, including hearing and vision impairment
  • Developmental delay that is outside of the norm for their expected age.

The specialist assessments are designed around the needs and priorities of the child and family and are flexibly constructed. Where appropriate, diagnoses are made and shared with the family. In keeping with Devon Assessment Framework (DAF) guidelines, regular Team Around the Child (TAC) meetings are held to review each child’s progress, consider on-going needs and ensure outcomes are being achieved. This process now incorporates the SCAC Review and DAF My Plan format. This ensures that the children have appropriate and up-to-date plans for treatment, intervention and transition on to school in accordance with SEND guidelines, and ensures coordination and communication between services and partner agencies.

Specialist intervention and further assessment groups are run on a termly basis for small groups of children with complex needs, led by specialist nursery nurses who work alongside the SCAC therapists in close liaison with community colleagues. This ensures a joined-up and efficient approach for children and families – for example music and movement group facilitating a physiotherapy programme, or a joint approach to feeding difficulties by an occupational therapist working with a speech and language therapist.

Clinical psychologists consider the emotional and psychological well-being of the child and family, and contribute to formal multidisciplinary assessment of the children’s development. Specialist cognitive assessments are carried out where appropriate and there is close liaison with community services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and Adult Mental Health Services where necessary to ensure clear communication and coordinated, safe care.

Specialist clinics could include orthoptic, feeding assessments, wheelchair/buggy clinics, orthotic/mobility clinics. Families can also access the specialist toy library.

Guidance and helpful information

Requests for multidisciplinary developmental assessment to the SCAC can be made by any of the professionals involved with the child – such as consultant paediatricians, health visitors, GPs or therapists such as speech and language therapists. Close liaison exists with the team on the Exeter Neonatal Unit to facilitate early referral as appropriate. All requests are processed through the Single Point of Access (SPA) screening and pathway meetings. This ensures a robust and coordinated process from point of request to service allocation and delivery.

SCACs are for children up to the age of 5 years who are identified as having, or possibly having, moderate to complex additional needs. This includes children for whom early intervention resolves the difficulties as well as those who will continue to require some level of specialist support throughout their childhood.

What happens next?

The service offers an integrated assessment that determines the level of need, and then devises a programme of activities/support that best meet the child’s needs to maximise their potential.

The assessment will be carried out by the relevant professionals within the SCAC multidisciplinary team. These can include consultant paediatricians, specialist nursery nurses, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, clinical psychologists, ROVICs (Rehabilitation Officers for Visually Impaired Children) and physiotherapists (this will vary per area). The assessment process usually takes 6-8 weeks and may also include input from involved professionals from community settings. At the end of the assessment an individualised plan will be formulated. The SCAC multidisciplinary teams ensure a joined up approach to enable children to have appropriate and up to date plans for treatment, intervention and transition into preschools/education settings.

Who you might see?

The team includes:

  • Specialist nursery nurses
  • Portage home visiting team
  • Community paediatricians
  • Early years advisory teachers
  • Occupational therapists
  • Paediatric clinical psychology
  • Specialist paediatric physiotherapists
  • Speech and language (highly specialist) therapists
  • Additional arrangements exist to provide orthoptic and music therapy assessments.

The centre works closely with community colleagues e.g. pre-school key workers; school special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs), specialist advisory teachers and members of the multi-sensory team. Specialist assessment and intervention is delivered both within the centre and out in the community, and this is determined by the specific needs of the child and family, good practice guidelines and clinical and service feasibility.