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Learning difficulty/disability in children ≥ 6 years

PAEDIATRIC

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


It is proposed that the following conditions should be sent directly to emergency. This is not a list of all conditions that should be sent to the emergency department, it is intended as guidance for presentations that may otherwise have been directed to general paediatric outpatients:

Brain & Nervous System

  • Headaches
    • that wake at night or headaches immediately on wakening
    • new and severe headaches
    • associated with significant persisting change of personality or cognitive ability or deterioration in school performance
    • recent head injury or head trauma
    • any abnormalities on neurological examination, such as: focal weakness, gait disturbance, papilledema, diplopia
    • sudden onset headache reaching maximum intensity within 5 minutes  ( = explosive onset)
    • presence of an intracranial csf shunt
    • hypertension above 95th centile by age for systolic or diastolic

  • Seizures
    • all children with new onset of clinically obvious epileptic seizures should be referred to emergency for initial assessment, observation and consideration of emergency investigation or management.
    • any abnormalities on neurological examination, such as: focal weakness, gait disturbance, papilledema, diplopia
    • significant change in seizures for established epilepsy:
      • new onset of focal seizures or
      • a dramatic change in seizure frequency or duration
  • Faints syncope and funny turns
    • loss of consciousness in association with palpitations
    • sudden loss of consciousness during exercise
    • possible infantile spasms. this may be frequent brief episodes of head bobbing (with or without arm extension) in an infant less than 12 months old

 

Respiratory

  • Asthma, stridor and wheeze
    • infants who have apnoea or cyanosis during paroxysms of coughing
    • children with recurrent or persistent respiratory symptoms who have had an episode of choking suggestive of a possible inhaled foreign body
    • recent onset or escalating stridor and respiratory distress
    • acute respiratory distress not responding to home management
    • acute respiratory symptoms causing inability to feed or sleep in an infant
  • Persistent and chronic cough
    • infants who have apnoea or cyanosis during paroxysms of coughing
    • children with recurrent or persistent respiratory symptoms who have had an episode of choking suggestive of a possible inhaled foreign body
    • prominent dyspnoea, especially at rest or at night
    • cough causing inability to feed or sleep in an infant

Gastroenterology

  • Jaundice
    • Jaundice in infants with elevated liver transaminases or conjugated (direct) bilirubin > 20 microMol per litre or >15% of total bilirubin.
    • Jaundice in ≥38 week infant ≥ 330 UMol/L
    • Jaundice in 35-37 week infant ≥ 280 UMol/L
    • Jaundice in <35 week infant ≥ 230 UMol/L
  • Chronic & Recurrent Abdominal Pain
    • severe pain not able to be managed at home with simple analgesia
    • significant change in location or intensity of chronic abdominal pain suggestive of a new pathology
    • pain associated with vomiting where this has not occurred before
    • bile stained vomiting
  • Chronic Diarrhoea and/or Vomiting
    • vomiting or diarrhoea with weight loss in an infant <1 year
    • suspected pyloric stenosis
    • bile stained vomiting
    • acute onset abdominal distention
    • weight loss with cardiovascular instability, e.g. postural heart rate changes
    • new onset of blood in diarrhoea or vomitus
  • Constipation with or without soiling
    • severe abdominal pain or vomiting with pain

Urinary

  • Urinary Incontinence and enuresis.
    • recent onset of polyuria/polydipsia that might suggest diabetes (mellitus or insipidus)
  • Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
    • acute infant  urinary tract infection presenting septicaemia or acutely unwell

Musculoskeletal

  • Acute joint pain with fever
  • Acute joint pain unable to weight bear.   

Cardiac

  • Chest pain with haemodynamic compromise or history of cardiac disease
  • Infant <3 months with newly noted murmur and any of the following:
    • poor feeding
    • slow weight gain
    • weak or absent femoral pulses
    • post ductal (foot) oxygen saturation < 95%
    • respiratory signs (wheeze, recession or tachypnoea)

Allergies

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Allergic reaction where there are any respiratory or cardiovascular symptoms or signs
  • Reaction to peanut or other nut should be referred to Emergency as these reactions can progress rapidly and should be observed and assessed in Emergency
  • Exposure to a known allergen with a previously identified potential for anaphylaxis in this patient even if the reaction appears currently mild
  • Severe angioedema of face

Growth concerns

  • Faltering growth (failure to thrive in children < 6 years)
    • severe malnutrition
    • temperature instability
    • cardiovascular instability – postural heart rate change
  • Short stature
    • possible CNS signs (visual disturbance, morning headaches)

Developmental concerns

  • Non verbal child with acute distress and unable to examine adequately for medical conditions causing pain  eg tooth abscess, bone infections or osteopaenic fractures

 

Behavioural concerns

  • Suicidal or immediate danger of self-harm
  • Aggressive behaviour with immediate threatening risk to vulnerable family members

Irritable Infant

  • Fluctuating or altered conscious level – weak cry, not waking appropriately for feeds, lethargy, maternal concern of failure of normal interaction
  • Suspicion of harm or any unexplained bruising, especially in infant <3 months
  • Significant escalation in frequency or volume of vomiting
  • New onset of blood mixed in stool
  • Fever
  • Increased respiratory effort
  • Weak or absent femoral pulses in infant <3 months
  • Presence of newly noted heart murmur in infant <3 months

 

Physical findings of concern in an infant <1 year

  • Inguinal hernia that cannot be reduced.
  • Painless firm neck swelling that is increasing in size.
  • White pupil or white instead of red reflex on eye examination.
  • Previously unrecognised intersex genitals (ambiguous as either virilised female or incomplete formation male eg bilateral absent testes).
  • Possible Infantile Spasms. This may be frequent brief episodes of head bobbing (with or without arm extension) in an infant less than 12 months old. 
  • Absent femoral pulses.
  • Infant <3 months with newly noted murmur and any of the following:
    • poor feeding
    • slow weight gain
    • weak or absent femoral pulses
    • post ductal (foot) oxygen saturation < 95%
    • respiratory signs (wheeze, recession or tachypnoea)

Diabetes

  • New diagnosis of type 1 diabetes = polyuria and/or polydipsia and random BSL >11.0.
  • Ketoacidosis in a known diabetic with any of the following:
    • systemic symptoms (fever, lethargy)
    • vomiting
    • inability to eat (even if not vomiting)
    • abdominal pain
    • headache
  • Refer to local care pathway
  • 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

Minimum Referral Criteria

  • Category 1
    (appointment within 30 calendar days)
    • 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)

  • Category 2
    (appointment within 90 calendar days)
    • Acute severe functional deterioration in a child diagnosed with a  learning disability
  • Category 3
    (appointment within 365 calendar days)
    • Educational psychology assessment suggests intellectual impairment and the child has never been seen by a paediatrician for assessment.
    • Suspected attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity

1. Reason for request Indicate on the referral

  • 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

2. Essential referral information Referral will be returned without this

  • General referral information
  • 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
  • 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 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 child safety for more than 6 months?

3. Additional referral information Useful for processing the referral

Highly desirable information – may change triage category

  • Classroom reports of school performance and engagement with school work.
  • 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 of 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 child safety 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

4. Request

Patient's Demographic Details

  • 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

Referring Practitioner Details

  • Full name
  • Full address
  • Contact details – telephone, fax, email
  • Provider number
  • Date of referral
  • Signature

Relevant clinical information about the condition

  • 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

Reason for request

  • 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

Clinical modifiers

  • 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

Other relevant information

  • 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.)
  • Please note that where appropriate and where available, the referral may be streamed to an associated public allied health and/or nursing service.  Access to some specific services may include initial assessment and management by associated public allied health and/or nursing, which may either facilitate or negate the need to see the public medical specialist.

  • A change in patient circumstance (such as condition deteriorating, or becoming pregnant) may affect the urgency categorisation and should be communicated as soon as possible.

  • Please indicate in the referral if the patient is unable to access mandatory tests or investigations as they incur a cost or are unavailable locally.