If you’re worried that your child may have a disability, talk to your GP or public health nurse as soon as possible. They can discuss what will happen next.
They may refer you to a local health professional or to a children's disability service. They can help you to get the right services to support you and your child. This is called a referral.
For some services you can make the referral yourself.
Contact a children's disability service and ask them if they accept self-referrals.
After a referral
When a referral is received, health and social care professionals will look at all the information you’ve provided. They use this to decide on the most appropriate service for your child.
Children who have a difficulty such as a delay in speech or problems with handwriting may be referred to primary care services. This can include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, dietetics and psychology.
Your child may need a children’s disability team. They can provide a coordinated approach.
The service will then contact you and let you know what will happen next. They will provide you with support as soon as possible, but you may have to wait for some services.
If you have to wait for services
Disability services may have a waiting list. How long you wait will vary, depending on the type of support your child needs and the demand for services in your area.
While you wait you can find help in other ways. For example, organisations dedicated to particular disabilities like Down Syndrome Ireland, or parent-led groups like The Special Needs Parents Association. They can provide information on disabilities and conditions, advice and emotional support.
Children who are having difficulties at school
If your child is having difficulties at school, for example (struggling to keep up, reading difficulties) speak to your child's teacher or the school principal. They can advise you on what to do next. This may include an educational assessment for your child.