Diagnoses

Finding and choosing the right specialist that can provide you with the correct diagnoses and help you with the “where to from here” can cause sleepless nights.

So if you have done the checkups according to your child’s Life Book, then your paediatrician would have picked up on the subtle changes in his development, they would then refer you to a Developmental Pediatrician. There they will do their assessment and for official diagnoses, they will either send you to a Psychologist or Psychiatrist.

“Check-ups are done at six weeks, five months, ten months, 1 year and then every six months until they go to school”

Did you know that? I didn’t, nobody told me.

However, I would suggest you contact Autism Western Cape for assistance and guidance. They have a wonderful team with many years of experience that will be able to help you with any questions. They also have stations at Tygerberg Hospital and Red Cross Hospital.

The normal referral process is as follow: the teacher/paediatrician/clinic doctor will refer you to a neuro-paediatrician/ psychologist at a State facility or private (if you have a medical aid) for the test. In the Western Cape, it is Tygerberg Hospital’s Developmental Clinic or Red Cross Children’s Hospital’s Developmental Clinic. The only problem is that you will have to wait for an appointment – a long wait, up to 1 year. Currently, this is 90% of the families that seek help at AWC. The neuro-paed/psychologist/psychiatrist will do the assessment and diagnoses. Ideally, for the most comprehensive assessment, it needs to be a multi-disciplinary team of a neuro-paed, psychologist, speech therapist and occupational therapist – done over a 2 week observation period. Once the diagnoses are given they help with the referral to a state school or facility and with SASSA for the care dependency grant. A referral letter goes to the Western Cape Education Department for your child to be placed on the waiting list for one of the Government funded schools.
A note on the waiting list for the government schools: If you want your child to attend a government school or you don’t have the choice of a private school, when they phone you for the assessments and follow-up assessment – go! Why? If you don’t go, they take your child off the waiting list.
Just another Note: If you do go the private route – Pediatrician, Speech Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, Psychologist (or it can be psychologist, speech then OT), Early Intervention Centre/Privately funded school – if you are a low to middle-income household, this will cost a lot out of your own pocket. If you want to apply for the Care Dependency Grant from SASSA, you will have to go to the doctors at a State facility as SASSA does not accept the reports from a non-government specialist.

If your child only got a 45 min screening interview with a psychologist or specialist, don’t despair, the school your child is referred to will/Should have a multi-disciplinary team who will observe your child for a 2 week period to assess whether placement at their school is appropriate. If not, they will refer to the appropriate school.
Just one more word of advice: If you do go through the hospital, be prepared to have patience, lots and lots of patients. It can be tedious. For each department, you have to open a file, even when you already have one.

In the meantime, AWC will assist with some information, workshops (Autism Care – 5-day workshop) and support.

Specialists

Your son’s doctor or paediatrician or AWC will recommend specialist you can take your child too if you do not go through State. Or even the daycare, creche or school. Many times you would want a second, third or fourth opinion, but it will cost you. If you can afford it and you have medical aid and it covers the psychologist and specialist – it is up to you.

The creche gave me the contact number of a social worker from Jelly Beanz and she referred me to a psychiatrist at Christian Barnard Hospital. While I waited on a response from Dr Carew, I e-mailed Dr Lindenberg and made an appointment with the Psychologist.

As it normally happens, I got responses from everyone I spoke too all at once. However, cost played a big role, but I wanted to have the best for helping my son. I thought because autism affects your whole being, going the bio-medical way instead of just clinical would be best, so we made the appointments with Dr Lindenberg and Carey-Lee Vermotor.

In some aspect, I wish I had gone the clinical route because they are more evidence-based. And we eventually did end up at Tygerberg, doing both the clinical and bio-medical.

Here is my list:

  • Deidre Strobel Audiologist and Speech Pathologist – 021 930 3136 at Panorama Hospital
  • UCT Autism Research – They have a waiting period for joining their research program and they work together with the Red Cross Children’s Hospital who also has a very long waiting list. (Centre for Autism Research -UCT)
  • Dr Jonda Kerner, Developmental Pediatrician, who gave the diagnoses of Classic Autism and referred to a psychologist, Carey-Lee Vermoter 021 914 1640.
  • Jelly Beanz Inc – Social worker Edith Kriel
  • Tygerberg Children’s Hospital (021 938 4911) and Red Cross Children’s Hospital (021 658 5535) – They also have a very long waiting list. (Your doctor can refer you to them, they will first set up a hearing test after which you will be referred to the Developmental Center) .
  • Dr LD Carew – 021 423 8774/6, Child Psychiatrist at Christian Barnard Memorial Hospital
  • Dr Louise Lindenberg
  • Dr Lindenberg referred me to two Dieticians: Kath Megaw of Nutripaeds