The Assessment Process
The assessments are undertaken by two or three members of the team, and one of our Clinical Psychologists will always lead the team. We undertake assessments at the Elizabeth Newson Centre, which will include an interview with parents, observation of play-based activities and evidence-based assessment tools. The assessment process is an interactive one; we plan this carefully in advance and have clear aims and objectives for the assessment. We work hard to have meaningful interactions with the child and their family members. The core aims of the assessment are to understand how the child interacts, engages and responds to members of the team as well as understanding their personal and family history and their current functioning at home, school and in the community.
Pre- assessment consultation
Prior to the assessment, a detailed chronology is prepared based on the information provided by the family and professionals. This is discussed and supplemented during the assessment. We will also liaise with any involved professionals to gather further information about the individual. Once the relevant reports have been collated and the chronology has been completed, a member of the clinical team will call the family to offer an assessment date at the Elizabeth Newson Centre. During this consultation, a member of the Clinical Team will share details of the day and explain the questionnaires that will be sent to the family to complete prior to the appointment. We will ask questions about the individual’s needs and interests so that we can tailor the assessment day accordingly. There will also be an opportunity for the family to ask any questions or raise any concerns they may have about the assessment day.
We will request that a range of questionnaires are completed by the individual coming for assessment, by their parents or carers and, with permission, their educational setting. We ask that the parent and education questionnaires are completed prior to the assessment. The individual can complete their own questionnaires on the assessment day, if appropriate. These questionnaires aid us in understanding the individual and how their needs may present across different contexts.
The assessment involves the use of a variety of semi-structured interviews with parents. The interviews will cover areas including personal and developmental history, medical history, family background, current concerns, and neurodevelopmental features. The aims of the interview are to generate a holistic view of the individual’s life history and family context, considering the early years, experience of education, and relationships.
Depending on the referral question, a play-based activity session, informed by the Marschak Interaction Method, will usually take place between the individual and their parent/carer. This will involve carrying out a range of developmental games and activities. Members of the clinical team will observe the interaction through a one-way screen.
The young person will also be engaged in a 1:1 session with one of our assistant psychologists, which will be informed by creative and play-based tasks. The aim of this session is to create a naturalistic environment for the individual to demonstrate their interaction skills, and also to explore their thoughts and feelings about themselves and their future.
If appropriate, we may also use a standardised assessment procedure, such as the ADOS-2. The audio and video of these sessions is recorded to improve analysis of this data.
A draft assessment report will be completed by the team and sent to the family. We will also invite the family to a detailed feedback session to discuss our opinion of the outcome of the assessment. This will involve discussion, with the lead clinician, of the assessment and our findings. If deemed appropriate, the child or young person will also be invited to take part in this discussion. This feedback meeting may take the form of a face to face meeting at the Elizabeth Newson Centre or via Zoom or the telephone. We aim for this feedback to take place within 3 months of the assessment date.
A detailed report is provided which will include a summary of the assessment process and findings, our formulation and recommendations. The centre uses recognised diagnostic criteria, in accordance with best practice. Currently, we use the 5th edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM–5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) when providing diagnostic opinions. Our reports also contain detailed recommendations and guidance for the individual, their family and the services supporting them.
We send the final assessment report to the referrer and to the parents and, wherever appropriate, the child or young person. With permission, we will send a copy to the local services responsible for future care, education and management. We encourage those concerned to share the report with all those involved in supporting and working with the individual.