Referral Criteria – Learning Disability and Autistic Spectrum Conditions

We will provide support for a child or young person with a learning disability and Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASC).

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 child protection issues) learning disabilities, including those children and 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 Autistic Spectrum Disorders (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 an associated learning disability. 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 the Single Point of Access (SPA) to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

There are times when it might be more appropriate for a child or 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 or young person’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 or 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 or 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 referral?

Having a child or young person with a learning disability and ASC has an impact on the whole family, and other relatives may also need support to deal with their feelings. Helping them to access information and support can allow them to come to terms with their situation in their own time.

Organisations such as Mencap and the National Autistic Society can offer information, advice and services to people with a diagnosis of autism and/or learning disability. Other children in the family may find it helpful to access Young SIBS, a charity which helps brothers and sisters to come to terms with their sibling’s disability.

Talking to other people in a similar situation can also be helpful. Contact a Family offer advice, information and support to the parents of disabled children and enable them to contact other families locally and nationally.

Parents can also find support from the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at the child’s school or nursery, and their Health Visitor, GP or Paediatrician who can refer on to Children and Family Health Devon.

Children and Family Health Devon provides Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Learning Disability Nurses, Clinical Psychologists and Paediatricians across Northern, Eastern and Southern Devon.

If the parents need a break from their caring responsibilities they should contact their social worker who will be able to offer advice and support, and to confirm they are getting the right support from their local authority.

If a child or young person has recently received support from the Children’s Community Learning Disability Team, but they have been discharged, they may be able to arrange a one-off ‘drop in’ clinic appointment for top-up advice.


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