Navigating the Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) process

Deciding to pursue a diagnosis for Special Educational Needs (SEN) can be a stressful and difficult time for families. But with the right support and the correct pathway, an early diagnosis and mapped-out support can have huge benefits.

There is no one set process to follow when getting a diagnosis. However, if you feel there are development milestones your child has failed to reach, there are steps you can take. Make an appointment with your GP – a simple chat can offer reassurance, and they will be able to advise on the best course of action.

The characteristics of autism, social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) and other neurodiversity will differ for each person, so it’s always a good idea, ahead of your first meeting with the health visitor or GP, to have written down a list of signs you have noticed, such as difficulties with conversation or interaction. Some people even choose to keep a ‘behaviour diary.’

Your GP will be able to refer you for a formal assessment (diagnosis). Multi-disciplinary diagnostic assessment will be carried out by a team of professionals, who will help you better understand your child’s needs.

Private diagnosis is an option and can reduce waiting times. Some Local Authorities might not accept the results of private diagnoses, so it’s a good idea to stay on the waiting list for an NHS assessment as well.

Once you have a diagnosis, you may need to speak to your Local Authority about an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP). The EHCP is useful in that it helps dictate what school provision might be required.

All of this can seem like a lot to take in, and the process can take a little time, so even if you are unsure about pursuing a diagnosis, it is still a good idea to put the wheels in motion. You will not be delaying anything, and you will still have time to think, talk to others and continue to observe your child.

You can find out more about autism diagnosis from the NHS here.

You can also find more details about how to request an EHCP plan from your Local Authority here.