Calling something a ‘delay’ and not a ‘disorder’ is a wholly tactical move Local Authorities and the NHS uses when writing reports for Statutory Assessments.
Because delays are understood to spontaneously ‘catch-up’ (via universal services) and disorders require targeted (ie direct) intervention.
Parents of children with suspected Autism will come across this a lot. First it will be a “Global Developmental Delay”. Next, “Delays in Communication and Social Interaction”.
The issue is: in most NHS services the second a diagnosis is given (typically 2 years after starting the assessment pathway) the child with Autism is then discharged from NHS SLT and transferred to a local ‘Autism Team’ that rarely includes any SLT.
As Heidi Keeling writes – it shouldn’t be about the label (delay / disorder or ASD / not-ASD) but addressing the NEED using Evidence Based Practise. A child of 4.6 years who cannot express his wants and needs in any consistent and functional way NEEDS SLT INTERVENTION. End of.
By way of an update, I would like to add that whilst I see 100s of SLT reports per year I obviously only get to see a small percentage of the total reports written. I work across the UK with totally unrelated families & schools etc and as such I would argue that it’s a varied sample at the very least? Unfortunately most families cannot afford to appeal & others don’t qualify for legal aid and so there are plenty of reports submitted that don’t receive a second opinion (and may not need one).
Since writing this blog post I have also had feedback from lots of SLTs working in the NHS and Independently who confirm what I have written is similar to what they’ve experienced however, again, this is only a small sample and there will likely be plenty of examples of best practise out there too.