The Health Sector and the Education Sector both have a role to play regarding assessment of disability and special educational needs.
Parents of infants, toddlers and young children with disabilities can access the HSE Early Intervention Teams. These are multi-disciplinary teams consist of a range of professionals with expertise in child development, including: medical professionals; psychologists; social workers; speech and language therapists; occupational therapists and physiotherapists. They provide assessment and intervention services to the 0-5 age group.
If a parent has concerns regarding their childʼs developmental progress, they may seek to have the child referred for an Assessment of Need by the HSE. The assessment may screen for concerns in relation to the childʼs physical, cognitive, emotional, social and adaptive behaviour and identify areas of need.
Following the assessment, a HSE Liaison Officer is required to prepare a service statement within a month of the assessment being completed. This service statement will state what services the child will require and an action plan will be developed to deal with how these are to be provided subject to resources.
Parents seeking an Assessment of Need can ask their GP, Public Health Nurse or the childʼs Consultant to refer the child or they can make a parental referral by contacting their local HSE clinic.
The Health Sector (HSE)
The responsibilities of the Health sector are laid out in the Disability Act 2005, (which was implemented on 1st June 2007 for children under 5). Those of the Education sector, are covered in the Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004.
NOTE: Not all of the elements of EPSEN Act 2004 have been implemented as yet. The only statutory right to an assessment of need process available to parents of a child with a disability is an assessment under the Disability Act 2005.
Under the Disability Act 2005, children born after 1st June 2002, may be eligible for an assessment of need. Part 2 of the Act states that qualifying children have a right to:
- An assessment of their health and educational needs arising from
- An Assessment Report;
- A statement of the services they will receive;
- To make a complaint if you are not happy with any part of the
HSE Assessment of Need
Any parent who feels that their child (born after 1st June 2002) may have a disability can apply for an assessment. An application can also be made by a legal guardian or a personal advocate assigned by the Citizen’s Information Board (See National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities below).
Note: Parents of children who have education needs, but not health related needs, cannot seek assessment under the Disability Act 2005.
What is an assessment of need?
An assessment of need under the Disability Act is an assessment of the
full range of your child’s needs associated with his or her disability. The
assessments will be about all of the needs your child has because of his
or her disability and not just the ones that it is possible to provide services for immediately. Following the assessment, you will receive an Assessment Report detailing your child’s needs and the services required to meet those needs.
Your first point of contact through the HSE is the Assessment Officer at your local HSE Health Office. Each Local Health Office has an Assessment Officer who can assist you with your child’s application and help and support you through the process.
The Assessment Officer is responsible for issuing your child’s Assessment Report. The assessment is carried out regardless of the cost or availability of services. All assessments will be carried out in line with the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) Standards. Parents will be encouraged to take part in the child’s assessment.
Where to apply?
Applications must be made in writing on a standard form which is
available from your Local Health Office, GP, pharmacies or hospitals. Call the HSE information line 185024 1850. A list of Local Health Offices in Ireland is available at www.hse.
How long will it take?
Your child’s assessment must start within 3 months from when the completed application form is received by the HSE. It must be completed within a further 3 months from the date on which the assessment commenced. In exceptional circumstances, the assessment may take longer than 3 months, but must be completed as soon as possible.
What happens next?
When the assessment is complete, a HSE Case Manager, who may also be referred to as the Liaison Officer, will prepare a Service Statement for you. The Service Statement will say what services and supports will be provided to your child and will be prepared within 1 month of the assessment being completed. You will receive your child’s Assessment Report and Service Statement at the same time.
NOTE: It was originally intended that both the Disability and the EPSEN Acts would be rolled out together for children between 5 and 18, and the Disability Act would be rolled out for adults after that. However, the Government has decided to postpone further implementation. It is not clear when assessments of need will apply to children over five and adults.
HSE Early Intervention Team
The Early Intervention Team is a support service for children from birth
to age six with childhood developmental delay or disabilities. In some
areas, it is provided directly by the HSE and in others by voluntary
bodies. The team works in partnership with parents. Your child may be
referred through your paediatrician, GP or public health nurse. You can
also contact the Early Intervention Team directly.
The team generally includes some or all of the following:
- Area Medical Officer (who is a HSE doctor) or community paediatrician
- Clinical psychologist
- Counselling nurse
- Early intervention specialist
- Occupational therapist
- Social worker
- Speech and language therapist
The support of other specialists [paediatrician, ophthalmologist, Ear,
Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon and child psychiatrist] and relevant
voluntary sector service providers may also be available to the team,
The Early Intervention Team screens, assesses and identifies the child’s needs, and together with the parents, develops a plan of action for providing services. This plan may include individual therapy, group therapy and skills development, as well as supports for parents. Services are provided based on available resources. The assessment is followed by a family meeting to develop a plan that meets your child’s needs (this can be called a Family Partnership Plan or Individual Family Service Plan). If your child’s needs cannot be met by this service, they refer you to a more appropriate service.
Contact your local Health Office to see if there is an early intervention team in your area.
Children’s Disability Team
Children’s Disability Teams have been established in certain areas throughout Ireland (sometimes provided directly by the HSE and sometimes by voluntary bodies). These teams aim to provide a comprehensive service to children aged 6–18 with a physical, sensory or intellectual disability. They work together with parents to provide a service that meets the needs of the individual child.
The team may include the following:
- Clinical psychologist
- Community nurse
- Occupational therapist
- Respite co-ordinator
- Social worker
- Speech and language therapist
Your child may be referred through your paediatrician, GP, public health nurse or school. You can also contact the Children’s Disability Team directly. Contact your Local Health Office to get contact details for local services.
The Education Sector
The Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act 2004 defines a child with special educational needs as a child with 'an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability or any other condition' which restricts the child's capacity to 'participate in and benefit from education'.
The National Council for Special Education (NCSE) was set up under the EPSEN Act 2004 to improve the delivery of education services to persons with special educational needs arising from disabilities with particular emphasis on children.
The NCSE, through its network of local Special Educational Needs Organisers (SENOs), is responsible for allocating resource hours and special needs assistants to support children with special needs. SENOs are appointed by the NCSE to provide a direct local service to the parents of children with special educational needs and to schools within geographical areas. This involves identifying the needs of children and deciding on the level of resources schools require to provide them with an appropriate education service.
SENOs deal with applications for additional teaching support and Special Needs Assistance for children with special educational needs from all schools. They also assist with applications for transport and Assistive Technology. SENOs can advise schools and parents on the facilities, services, and resources available to assist children with Special Educational Needs.
The SENO does not provide psychological reports. The SENO will assist in arranging for assessments where difficulties are encountered.
How do you arrange for an educational assessment?
There are three main ways to get an educational assessment of a child in Ireland:
- Through the child's school, with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS)
- Through a support organisation (such as the Dyslexia Association of Ireland in the case of Dyslexia), or
- With a private, independent educational psychologist.
National Educational Psychology Service
The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is responsible for providing assessments within schools. NEPS provides psychological services to primary and post-primary schools, both state and private. School-going children may be tested free through the service.
The Department of Education and Skills funds the NEPS, whose psychologists are the main psychologists that conduct psychological assessments of children (aged 4-19 years) who may have Special Educational Needs (SEN).
Schools are only allowed a limited number of assessments each year, so in practice, often only students with very severe difficulties are likely to be seen through the school service, as waiting lists are lengthy. Private assessments by NEPS approved psychologists will be accepted for this purpose. The School Principal should be approached and will have detailed information on the specifics of the NEPs process.
NEPS also processes applications for 'reasonable accommodation' in the State examination arrangements for children with disabilities.
How is an educational assessment arranged?
An assessment can be arranged through the NEPS service. In general, you apply for NEPS Services through the school principal of your child's school.
- The Principal will contact NEPS and request a psychological assessment after the appropriate referral form has been signed.
- Consent is important - the consent form will be fully explained before the assessment is undertaken.
- The reasons for assessment will be discussed in full with the parents or legal guardian.
- The assessment will typically take place in the school your child attends (it will not take place in the class room or with peers present).
There are many independent educational psychologists who work in private practice throughout the country. Charges vary between €400 and €700 on average. A list of registered psychologists can be obtained from the Psychological Society of Ireland website or by emailing the Society at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Psychological Society of Ireland, Floor 2, Grantham House, Grantham Street, Dublin 2. [Useful Links]
NOTE: Tax relief on the assessment fee of a dependent child is allowable via the MED1 Form. Visit the revenue website www.revenue.ie and see the section on tax relief for health expenses for further information. You can download a MED1 form from the revenue website or get one from your local tax office.
Why have an educational assessment carried out?
You (or your child’s teacher), may be aware that your son or daughter is having difficulties with the school curriculum. Following consultation with you child's teacher and the School Principal, the need for a psychological assessment may be identified. Not all children need to be assessed, however, it is vital for children who are struggling in school with the normal curriculum.
The purpose of an educational assessment is to assess the child's IQ and thereby, to identify the presence of any learning disability that may be contributing to the learning difficulties the child is experiencing.
An assessment can also be appropriate where a child is experiencing difficulties within the school environment such as social isolation, anxiety, or behaviour issues. In this case, an educational psychologist may be able to comment on indications of other conditions such as learning difficulties, or autism. An assessment by a clinical psychologist (or consultant psychiatrist) will be required to provide a diagnosis of these other conditions.
The assessment report will document the strengths and weaknesses of the child's learning profile. Difficulties can be established and possibly addressed. A formal report is required in accessing any available learning supports in your child's school, or in future educational environments.
Preparing for the assessment
- Explain to your child that they will be meeting with somebody to discuss their difficulties - present it in a positive way, as something you have arranged to help
- Every effort should be made not to upset or cause anxiety to your child about the assessment - be clear that it is not an exam and that they cannot fail
- Explain what the educational psychologist will do, i.e. talk to the child about school, ask questions, do tasks like jigsaws, finding missing parts, or some reading and spelling
- Be really clear that this is not an exam, that the child cannot fail. The educational psychologist will only be interested in finding out how s/he thinks and learns
- Talk about where you are going, or where the meeting will be held, at what time and how long it will take
- Try to ensure that the child is well rested for the assessment
- Build in a little treat afterwards if possible
National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities
Under the Citizens Information Act 2007 the Citizens Information Board has a mandate to provide advocacy targeted at people with disabilities. The National Advocacy Service (NAS) was set up to provide independent, representative advocacy services for people with disabilities. It is organised and managed on a regional basis by the Boards of five Citizens Information Services and is supported by the Citizens Information Board.
It has five regional teams who provide a service to people with all types of disability across the country. Each regional team is managed by a particular Citizens Information Service’s Board with Clondalkin, Westmeath, Offaly, Waterford and Leitrim CISs taking on this role. Each team has a regional manager, a senior advocate, an administrator and between five and seven advocates. NAS has the same annual budget as the pilot Community and Voluntary Advocacy Programme.
People with disabilities may get in touch with the advocacy service directly on 0761 07 3000. Enquiries from family, friends or services on behalf of people who may be unable to make a request for support from the NAS are also welcomed.