Referral Criteria – Challenging Behaviour

Challenging behaviour is any behaviour that is associated with risks to the person or to society. Children and young people may show challenging behaviours through: aggression towards others (such as hitting and kicking), throwing things, running away, hurting themselves, verbal aggression and stereotyped behaviours. These behaviours may be of such intensity, frequency or duration that they can impact on the safety of the person or others. They can also limit or result in denial of access to community facilities, so that the child or young person can be at risk of social exclusion due to the behaviours they are displaying.

Conditions in scope

The Children’s Community Learning Disabilities Team will accept requests for service for:

  • Children and young people up to 18 years of age, registered with a Devon GP, who have a diagnosis of profound, severe (or moderate, where there are safeguarding concerns) learning disabilities, including those children/young people who have acquired this status

Requests will be considered for:

  • Children and young people who have been identified as having a cognitive impairment which is severe or profound and which limits educational and practical development
  • Children and young people attending other special schools or attending mainstream provision (or attached units) with a Statement of Special Educational Needs (or Education, Health Care plan equivalent), dependent upon the child/young person’s level of learning disability, the level of functional impairment and the nature and severity of the presenting problem.

Exclusion criteria

Requests for service will not be accepted for children and young people with:

  • Mild learning disability
  • Higher functioning Autism Spectrum Conditions (i.e. average or above average intelligence),
  • Acquired head or brain injury
  • Issues that are school based only, where the family does not require support – these should be supported by educational services such as Educational Psychology and Behaviour Support services

Consideration will be given on a case by case basis in regard to specific syndromes that do not necessarily mean there is a learning disability as a consequence, as to whether the child or young person meets the criteria for the service.

The requester should first consider appropriate mainstream services that would better meet the child or young person’s needs or provide the evidence that the child or young person’s disorder meets the criteria.

For example, if a child or young person with a learning disability presents with possible mental health problems, then a request should be made via Children & Family Health Devon Single Point of Access (SPA) for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). If we receive a request we may talk to other services within Children & Family Health Devon to ensure you are seen by the most appropriate service.

There are times when it might be more appropriate for a child/young person to access mainstream services, such as school and public health nursing, in line with the guidance around inclusive practices.

Pre-request requirements

A request for service is appropriate if there are significant concerns about the child’s development, health, well-being or behaviour and these are having a significant impact on the child’s functioning at home.

Before making your request:

  • It is important that the child/young person has been seen in person and assessed by the person making the request for service
  • Prior attempts have already been made by frontline staff to resolve the child/young person’s difficulties with mainstream support, and that evidence of this is included along with the formal request
  • Formal consent has been obtained for someone with legal parental responsibility for the child before a request is made
  • Information from the person making the request regarding what has been discussed/is needed to support the child/young person and/or family to engage with the service (see Request for Services form)

How can I support a young person before making a request?

Please refer the parents to review the information on Challenging Behaviour on this website for support and information before making a Request for Service.

If the parents feel that they need further support to understand and manage their child’s challenging behaviour, you can make a Request for Service to Children & Family Health Devon via the Single Point of Access. This form allows you to specify that you believe our service to be the most appropriate to accept the referral.

Your request should include information about services the child/young person is currently involved with or has seen in the past, where this is appropriate. If the child has an Education, Health and Social Care plan (EHC) and/or a single assessment/My Pathway plan this should also be provided or referenced as supporting information.

The information we receive will determine if the request to our service is appropriate to meet the child’s needs. If it is decided that the child does not meet the criteria for the Learning Disability team we will discuss this with other colleagues in Children & Family Health Devon to ensure that we offer the most appropriate service.

If the child or young person is accepted onto our waiting list, they will be offered an appointment within 18 weeks. We may send them a pack containing forms for them to record the child or young person’s behaviours over the next few weeks so that this information can inform our assessment.


Children and Family Health Devon
Single Point of Access Team
1a Capital Court
Bittern Road
Sowton Industrial Estate
Exeter EX2 7FW


t: 0330 024 5321