Accessing services/coordinating care tips
Many parents of children with autism must attend multiple appointments with different professionals and may be receiving support from several agencies.
Some advice may be conflicting, and it can be confusing trying to apply all the different recommendations. The following tips may help parents and caregivers to coordinate the different services providing support:
Inform professionals of all the services involved with your child. They can then contact each other and arrange a coordinated intervention plan. It is not up to you, as a parent, to communicate between professionals; they can communicate directly with each other. You can also suggest a key person with whom you communicate and this person then communicates with all the other professionals involved. For example, a social worker or a primary care worker will often take on this key role.
If you are invited to attend a meeting with one service, you can suggest that relevant professionals from other services are invited to attend the meeting. This will allow everyone working with your child to share information and ideas, and will ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals and using the same strategies.
If you have recent reports from services, it may be useful to share these with other professionals working with your child. It is courtesy to request permission from the professional who wrote the report. This will ensure that assessments are not repeated unnecessarily and that recommendations and intervention plans are shared.
Use consistent strategies across all settings
Strategies which successfully support the young person at home should be transferred consistently across all settings. Home, school, youth club, respite service, should all be using the same communication strategies, visual systems, sensory modifications and behaviour and anxiety management strategies. This will support the reinforcement of skills for the child or young person and assist him or her in the generalisation of skills across settings. This may also reduce anxiety if there is consistency and familiarity in the supports used.
Examples of this include:
- If your child uses a PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) book or other visual communication system, ensure he or she takes this to all settings, for example, grandparent’s house, sports club, respite centre, so he or she is able to communicate consistently across all settings.
- Ensure all services are using the same visual methods, for example, objects, photographs, symbols. If one service is using objects to communicate and another is using symbols, this may cause anxiety and limit the child or young person’s opportunities to communicate effectively. Similarly, make sure everyone is using the same type of visual schedule.
- If you use strategies such as a quiet space or calming resources at home, ensure similar strategies are available in other settings. Send resources with your child to school, respite centre, or advise them to purchase such items, if possible.
Plan for transitions
There will be key times at which your child will transfer between services. Key transition points include:
- Starting school
- Transition from Primary School to Post Primary School. At this point, other services often change as your child may now be able to access teen services including youth clubs.
- Transition to adulthood. The services, which work with children are usually different from adult service so your child will transfer to different healthcare services and professionals when he or she turns 18 years old.
These transition points can cause understandable anxiety but with adequate planning, there can be a smooth transition to new services. Plan early (up to 1-2 years in advance) and request support from professionals to start making a transition plan for your child. As discussed above, share reports, strategies and resources with the new services to ensure a smooth transition.
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