The Learning Support and Assessment Service delivers intensive assessment and learning support for children and young people who despite specialist input continue to experience difficulties in their educational setting.  It is a second level service aiming to provide further assessment, learning support and intervention for children and young people with autism. The service utilises a trans-disciplinary approach to service delivery. The team includes Teachers, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, and Autism Intervention Officers and Learning Support Officers. The service delivery is based on a capacity building model which provides:

  • A detailed trans-disciplinary assessment and learning support plan
  • Specific training for those working with the child and young person referred to the service
  • Home support and advice for parents in relation to their child’s education
  • Support for children and young people for up to 10 months according to need

Middletown Centre for Autism  follows current Child Protection and Safeguarding procedures in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.   Please see the following for information:

information on MCA's Safeguarding Procedures click here

Referral Process in Republic of Ireland

Where children with an ASD experience significant difficulties, the first course of action is engagement with first level services provided by the Department of Education and Skills (National Educational Psychological Service, Special Education Support Service, National Behavioural Support Service, National Council for Special Education) and Health Services Executive (HSE)/ HSE funded services.

As the MCA Pilot is a second-tier service and limited in nature, the nominations and referral process is initiated at school level following a multi-disciplinary school based review involving NEPS, the local SENO and other relevant professionals. 

Nominations to the MCA Referral Committee are considered for children where such a review concludes that despite comprehensive interventions and engagement with first-tier services, the child continues to present with significant and enduring behavioural and emotional difficulties.

As such nominations cannot be made by parents directly to the Middletown Centre for Autism (MCA), the Department of Education and Skills or the MCA Referral Committee.

If a parent feels that a child is currently experiencing continuing difficulties they should request through their school a multi-disciplinary school based review involving NEPS, the local SENO and other relevant professionals. 

Click on the link to see an example of a referral in ROI.

 - YouTube 

Referral Process NI

A parent/carer or any professional working with a child or young person can propose that a referral is sent to Middletown Centre for Autism using the referral process described in the below. Normally one child or young person from each Education Authority Area Office is referred, on a rolling basis, in a period of one academic year. The referral can be actioned at any time of the year and assessment and learning support will continue through the summer months.

Stage 1

A parent or professional discusses the possibility of referral with the Principal of the child or young person’s school or with the lead team member in their educational placement. The ASD service or school proposing a referral will obtain parental consent before proceeding. The Education Authority Regional Advisory Group (EARAG) members agree the sequence in which Education Authority (EA) make referrals to MCA.

Stage 2

The EA’s Assistant Senior Education Officer (ASEO), or the assigned nominee, will be responsible for approving the selection of a pupil for referral. If the ASD service is the first level service then the ASD service will propose a pupil to the ASEO having consulted with, school, other relevant professionals and parents and, if appropriate, Middletown Centre for Autism. In the circumstance that a special school is the “first level” service and the ASD Service is not currently involved with the pupil then the Special School will propose the pupil and engage in the appropriate consultations including consultation with the ASD service.

Stage 3

The ASEO or nominee will arrange for the most appropriate service and/or school staff to gather and collate the referral information required.  In most instances, it is envisaged that the ASD Service and the school will collaborate to collate the required information. Th e ASEO or nominee, if content that the referral is appropriate and the information complete will forward all the information to MCA. This will include the parental consent form.

- YouTube

Whole School Referral NI

The aim of the whole school referral is to facilitate school staff in creating an autism friendly environment. The LS&A Service will assist school staff in the promotion of collaborative working practices between parents, schools, education and health professionals, children and young people and the LS&A Service team.

MCA provide support the referred school’s staff to help them promote and improve autism specific practice.

The whole school work is individualised according to need but has included:

  • Support for a core team of school staff in leading the development of an ‘autism friendly environment
  • Specific advice for up to 10 months on agreed autism specific projects e.g 
  • The introduction and effective use of a calm space/s
  • Assistance with an autism policy
  • The development of an in-house CPD programme
  • Assistance in auditing autism specific support in school and updating practice
  • Monitoring pilot group progress pre and post whole school support
  • Joint observations with school staff across key stages and feedback
  • A research project where results are monitored and charted
  • Paired observation and feedback for staff

Whole School Referral Process

The ASEO or his/her nominee is responsible for approving the selection of a school for referral. The Principal can request a whole school referral from the ASEO or through the local EA ASD team leader. Contact your local EA ASD office for further information. Referral cannot be made directly to Middletown Centre for Autism (MCA).


· The Principal has an identified an interest in accessing a whole school referral

· The EA ASD teams have been working closely with the school over an extended period

· Children with autism are enrolled in school.

Click on the link to view a whole school referral in Priory Integrated College in Holywood Co.Down.

Holywood- Priory for Whole School Referral Example

  - YouTube