Learning difficulty/disability in children ≥ 6 years

Emergency department referrals

All urgent cases must be discussed with the on-call Registrar to obtain appropriate prioritisation and treatment.

Contact through:

  • Caboolture Hospital (07) 5433 8888
  • Redcliffe Hospital (07) 3883 7777
  • Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital (07) 3646 8111

Urgent cases accepted via phone must be accompanied with a written referral and a copy faxed immediately to the Central Patient Intake Unit: 1300 364 952.

If any of the following are present or suspected, refer the patient to the emergency department (via ambulance if necessary) or seek emergent medical advice if in a remote region.

  • Non-verbal child with acute distress and possible acute pain where medical condition needs exclusion, e.g. tooth abscess, bone infections or osteopaenic fractures

Does your patient wish to be referred?

Minimum referral criteria

Does your patient meet the minimum referral criteria?

Category 1

Appointment within 30 days is desirable

  • Definite history of loss of academic ability with deterioration in cognition suggestive of neurological disease. (IQ measurement is not required in order to accept this referral)
  • Child in out of home, where there is imminent threat of breakdown of current foster placement due to the complexity of the child’s developmental concerns.

Category 2

Appointment within 90 days is desirable

  • Acute severe functional deterioration in a child diagnosed with a learning disability or underlying developmental disorder
  • Child with recurrent suspensions, or at risk of expulsion from school or is unable to attend due to their learning and / or associated behavioural challenges
  • A child currently in out of home care (OOHC) or at risk of entering or leaving OOHC, where they have previously been on a waiting list for this problem and were removed without receiving a service

Category 3

Appointment within 365 days is desirable

  • Child with suspected moderate to severe learning difficulty / disability who requires timely assessment for purpose of diagnostic formulation, accessing NDIS and / or support for verification of disability in education setting.
  • Educational psychology assessment suggests presence of an intellectual impairment or underlying developmental disorder and the child has never seen by a Paediatrician for assessment
  • Suspected attention deficit disorder

If your patient does not meet the minimum referral criteria

Consider other treatment pathways or an alternative diagnosis.

If you still need to refer your patient:

  • Please explain why (e.g. warning signs or symptoms, clinical modifiers, uncertain about diagnosis, etc.)
  • Please note that your referral may not be accepted or may be redirected to another service

Other important information for referring practitioners

Not an exhaustive list

  • Refer to HealthPathways for assessment and management information if available
  • All children referred for learning difficulty require visual acuity and audiometry results.
  • Developmental optometry and auditory processing assessments are not supported by evidence
  • Are there significant behavioural or emotional issues suggesting that this referral would be better assessed under a behavioural category?
  • In the majority of cases it is thought inappropriate for children to wait more than 6 months for an outpatient initial appointment
  • If you have a reason to suspect a child in Queensland is experiencing harm, or is at risk of experiencing harm, you need to contact Child Safety Services: Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs
  • Clinical urgency is the dominant consideration in the prioritisation of a referral for a child currently in out of home care (OOHC), or at risk of entering or leaving OOHC.

Referral requirements

A referral may be rejected without the following information.

History and Examination

  • WISC or other equivalent IQ measurement within the previous 3 years or detailed information regarding learning abilities (such as NAPLAN report or reading, spelling, maths age equivalent levels) (provided by the school or another external provider). This is not required if there is a concern about developmental regression.
  • Review by school/private psychologist outlining area of difficulty, including report on school performance and engagement with schoolwork, copies of most recent school reports, other assessments of academic ability and achievement, what learning support or target academic interventions / remediation has been received by child to date. It is strongly recommended that school guidance officers complete formal cognitive assessments if the child is achieving below grade expectations
  • Nature of parents’ concerns
  • Are there significant behavioural or emotional issues suggesting that this referral would be better assessed under a behavioural category? It is acknowledged that behavioural difficulties can be secondary to learning problems
  • Report presence or absence of concerning features
    • Is the child able to actively engage in learning, is there reduced school hours attendance, recurrent suspensions, at risk of expulsion due to their learning and / or associated behavioural challenges
    • Is there definite history of developmental regression, and if so what specific loss of skills has been noted?
    • Is the child expected to be in out of home care supervised by the Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs for more than 6 months?
  • Confirmation of OOHC (where appropriate)

Additional referral information (useful for processing the referral)

Highly desirable information – may change triage category

  • Classroom reports of school performance and engagement with schoolwork.
  • Other assessments of academic ability and achievement
  • Audiometry
  • Medical history
  • Family history, including family members affected with ASD, ADHD, learning difficulty or mental illness.
  • Copies of previous speech, occupational therapy, physiotherapy or cognitive assessments if available.
  • If the child is in foster care, please provide the name and regional office for the child safety officer who is the responsible case manager.
  • Significant psychosocial risk factors (especially parents mental health, family violence, housing and financial stress, Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs involvement)
  • School history –exclusions or suspensions.

Desirable information- will assist at consultation

  • Pregnancy and birth history
  • Other past medical history
  • Immunisation history
  • Developmental history
  • Medication history
  • Height/weight/head circumference and growth charts with prior measurements if available.
  • Other physical examination findings inclusive of CNS, birth marks or dysmorphology
  • Any relevant laboratory results or medical imaging reports

Out of catchment

Metro North Health is responsible for providing public health services to the people who reside within its boundaries. Special consideration is made for patients requiring tertiary care or services that are not provided by their local Hospital and Health Service. If your patient lives outside the Metro North Health area and you wish to refer them to one of our services, inclusion of information regarding their particular medical and social factors will assist with the triaging of your referral.

  • Impact on employment
  • Impact on education
  • Impact on home
  • Impact on activities of daily living
  • Impact on ability to care for others
  • Impact on personal frailty or safety
  • Identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • To establish a diagnosis
  • For treatment or intervention
  • For advice and management
  • For specialist to take over management
  • Reassurance for GP/second opinion
  • For a specified test/investigation the GP can’t order, or the patient can’t afford or access
  • Reassurance for the patient/family
  • For other reason (e.g. rapidly accelerating disease progression)
  • Clinical judgement indicates a referral for specialist review is necessary
  • Presenting symptoms (evolution and duration)
  • Physical findings
  • Details of previous treatment (including systemic and topical medications prescribed) including the course and outcome of the treatment
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Details of any associated medical conditions which may affect the condition or its treatment (e.g. diabetes), noting these must be stable and controlled prior to referral
  • Current medications and dosages
  • Drug allergies
  • Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs use
  • Full name (including aliases)
  • Date of birth
  • Residential and postal address
  • Telephone contact number/s – home, mobile and alternative
  • Medicare number (where eligible)
  • Name of the parent or caregiver (if appropriate)
  • Preferred language and interpreter requirements
  • Identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • Full name
  • Full address
  • Contact details – telephone, fax, email
  • Provider number
  • Date of referral
  • Signature
  • Willingness to have surgery (where surgery is a likely intervention)
  • Choice to be treated as a public or private patient
  • Compensable status (e.g. DVA, Work Cover, Motor Vehicle Insurance, etc.)

Send referral

Hotline: 1300 364 938

Medical Objects ID: MQ40290004P
HealthLink EDI: qldmnhhs

Metro North Central Patient Intake
Aspley Community Centre
776  Zillmere Road

Health pathways

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