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Child Development Service


We routinely measure height and weight in all children as part of a child’s health assessment.


​​The Child Development Service (CDS) is a specialist team that takes referrals from other professionals. We are reserved for clients that have complex developmental problems e.g. Global Developmental Delay, Autism or an Intellectual Disability.


The Child Development Service is established to provide Diagnostic Assessment for children with significant developmental problems, which may be prolonged, complex or serious in nature. The children seen typically have delays across multiple developmental domains such as movement and coordination, communication, socialisation, self-help and problem solving.

Most developmental issues are identified and managed by local health professionals, without needing referral to the Child Development Service. Click on the links below:

Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD) Community Paediatrician and Child and Family Health Nursing.

 About us

CDS is a tertiary service, reserved for children with more complicated and prolonged developmental concerns. Children referred have had early intervention (there are exceptions in some circumstances) and evaluation by another professional. (Paediatricians, Child and Family Health (CFH) Nurses, Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Early Childhood Educators are common referrers).

Development concerns in children are firstly evaluated and managed by professionals such as a Paediatrician, CFH Nurse, Allied Health therapist (Speech, Occupational or Physiotherapist), Psychologist, Early Childhood Educator and/or GP.

Targeted early intervention will assist with improvements.​​​

 Eligibility and referrals

Who is Eligible?

Children who meet all the criteria below:

  • Have evidence suggesting a global developmental delay or intellectual disability
  • Have not yet started school
  • Are eligible for a Medicare card
  • Are residents of the Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD)


    NSLHD provides CDS services to all residents living in the following Local Government Areas (LGAs):

    Northern Beaches (formerly Manly, Warringah and Pittwater LGAs), Mosman, North Sydney, Ryde, Lane Cove, Willoughby, Hunters Hill, Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby.

    There are a small group of Epping residents, who live within Parramatta LGA, however they remain residents of NSLHD's service area. For clients living in the Epping area, we recommend you contact the relevant service, as our staff are able to enter the child's address into geo-mapping software, to confirm which local health district provides services.

    Referral processes

    To make an appointment at the CDS, a referral will first need to be accepted.

    All referrals go through an intake process prior to being accepted and require our referral form to be filled in by an early childhood professional such as a Paediatrician, Speech Pathologist , Occupational Therapist, Child Care educator or GP.

    If the referral is not suitable, advice is given on alternative services.

    Referral forms for health professionals can be found here:

    Families can make inquiries by calling us.​​

     What we do?

    ​The Child Development Service is a multidisciplinary team which includes Paediatric doctors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Allied Health therapists.

    A diagnostic assessment looks at all aspects of a child's history, current abilities and needs. We collect information from parents and professionals involved in the child's care in order to understand the whole child from a medical, psycho-social and environmental perspective. This information is combined with structured play, motor, behavioural and psychometric assessments.


    The conditions diagnosed through our assessments commonly include Global Developmental Delay,Intellectual Disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder..


    The main role of a Diagnosis and Assessment Service is to:

    • ​​​​Identify the child's developmental strengths, difficulties and support needs
    • ​​​​Establish if a diagnosis is present
    • ​​​​Make recommendations to help the child achieve their potential
    • ​​​​Link families to appropriate services and supports
    • ​​​​Assess the possible causes of the presenting problem

     General questions

    1. What do I do if I am not eligible for an assessment with CDS?

      The vast majority of children with developmental concerns are managed by a Paediatrician, Allied Health Therapists and Early Childhood Teachers. Your GP or Child and Family Health Nurse can guide you. This website has 'photo tiles' on the Home page that link you to these health professionals. Children with developmental problems can also approach ECEI (Early Childhood Early Intervention).

    2. What is early intervention?

      Early intervention is about providing the right type of encouragement and direction to improve a child's development. This is more beneficial than waiting for a child with difficulties to improve without additional input. Research has shown that the early years (before the start of school) are more effective for learning and intervention. Therapy is commonly provided by an Allied Health Therapist, such as a Speech Pathologist, Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist. They can assess a child, and guide their carers how to teach their child for optimal learning. Other forms of early intervention include Early Childhood Education (Day-Care and Pre-School) and behavioural support.

    3. What is a psychometric assessment?

      It is a test that examines a child's current abilities. It describes a child's current developmental status in order to recognise their ability to understand, think and apply themselves. It must be performed in a set way (following well defined rules) in order to be reliable and compared with other children. Different psychometric assessments are used to test different areas e.g. General Development, Behaviour, Social, Emotional, Cognitive (thinking skills), and Adaptive Function.

      Adaptive functioning assesses how well a child engages in common tasks in life, at home and in the community.

    4. Does CDS provide therapy?

      No. We are a specialist diagnostic and assessment service only. We provide recommendations and support to assist with finding the needed therapies.

    5. Do I need an assessment by CDS to access the NDIS?

      No. There are accessible pathways through the local ECEI (Early Childhood Early Intervention) provider. A CDS assessment can help with providing a detailed description to assist with NDIS planning. We strongly recommend you do not wait for a CDS assessment before registering with NDIS, since the NDIS process can take a long time. To access the NDIS in our area, please contact the Cerebral Palsy Alliance (ph 1300 888 378) website here .

    6. Where do I find a therapist?

      Some children are able to access therapy through our Child, Youth and Family Health Services whilst others are better served through private practitioners and Not for Profit Organisations. This will depend on your child's needs and whether they have been accepted by the NDIS. For additional resources on private therapists please visit the following websites.

      Speech Pathology Australia

      Occupational Therapy Australia

      Australian Phys​iotherapy Association

    7. What is Global Developmental Delay?

      Global Developmental Delay refers to significant delays in many, but not necessarily all, areas of development. In some cases, it is associated with an intellectual impairment. Please see our brochure for more details.

    8. Will a child with developmental delay catch up?

      This will depend on the underlying causes for the delay and the child's potential. Early Intervention will help a child to reach their potential. However, if the underlying cause for the delay is an intellectual disability, a delay of some sort is expected to continue.

    9. What is Intellectual Disability?

      A child with an intellectual disability has a cognitive impairment (e.g. learning, reasoning, problem solving skills that are significantly below average) on psychometric assessment , and these cognitive issues affect the child's adaptive functioning . Please see our brochure for more details.

    10. What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

      Autism is a condition where children have difficulties in their social interaction and communication along with restricted and repetative behaviours. Children with ASD tend to percieve the world differently and this can affect their general functioning and integration in some environments. The term "spectrum" refers to the wide range of characteristics that individuals may have and how one person with ASD can vary significantly from another. Please see the link for further information.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

     Children undergoing an assessment

    1. Who will help me with this process?

      You will have a clinician (usually a Social Worker) assigned to your family, who will guide you through the process.

      This includes:

      • discussing your concerns about your child
      • obtaining reports from your therapists, educators and medical teams
      • completing questionnaires.

      A home visit prior to the assessment can be arranged to meet you and your child and assist with the assessment process.

    2. What is the waiting time?

      Families often wait up to several months for their appointment.

    3. What to do whilst waiting for an assessment?

      During that time, your child should be continuing with early intervention. Our allocated clinician can guide you with finding information, programs and therapy.

    4. What is the cost?

      Our service is free for Medicare card eligible children in the Northern Sydney Local Health District. Please see the Eligibility and Referral section.

    5. Duration of the assessment?

      Depending on the testing required, some assessments may take 2 hours whilst others may take 4-5 hours.

    6. What if English is not my first language?

      An interpreter can be arranged for you or your child.

    7. Who should come to the assessment?

      We strongly recommend both parents attend and that your other children are looked after elsewhere on the day. It is important that both parents can share their concerns with our staff and hear the outcome of the assessment first hand. If you would like to bring a support person, please discuss this with our staff.

    8. What happens on the Assessment Day

      The team assessing your child may include a Psychologist, Doctor, Social Worker, Occupational Therapist and Speech Pathologist, as required.

      The process is detailed and may take between 2- 5 hours. It often includes :

      • An interview that builds on the existing information from others that have helped you
      • Play and Behavioural Assessments
      • Psychometric Assessments
      • Physical health examination
      • Motor Assessments
      • Feedback and recommendations.

      Children and their carers are offered a break at some time during this process.

      In most circumstances, we can provide a written summary on the day

    9. What is a Multidisciplinary Team?

      Our multidisciplinary team consists of health professionals with different expertise. We review your child together, to get a holistic perspective. This can include a Paediatric Doctor, Psychologist, Social Worker, Occupational Therapist and Speech Pathologist. We also see ourselves as part of your broader multidisciplinary team which include your child's doctors, early intervention providers, and other key people involved.

    10. What does the CDS Social Worker do?

      The Social Worker will:

      • Be the primary contact person throughout your involvement with our service
      • Process your child's referral. They may do a home visit prior to the assessment and gather relevant information from your child's therapists, doctors and educators
      • Provide support and follow up to the family subsequent to the assessment
      • Facilitate access to information and services
      • Focus on the psychosocial aspect and the broader implications for a family having a child with a disability.
    11. What does the CDS Occupational Therapist (OT) do?

      The OT will assess the child's skills in the following areas:

      • How a child uses play to improve their learning and engagement
      • Independence with self-help skills, such as dressing, hygiene etc.
      • Motor skills such as drawing, using scissors, balance and coordination
      • Sensory processing issues, such as being overly sensitive to touch, noise, activity etc.
    12. What do the CDS psychologists do?

      The psychologist will:

      • Review your child's history, reports and relevant questionnaires
      • Assess your child's behaviour, interactions and play
      • Conduct Psychometric Assessments
      • Provide feedback about your child's skills, development and relevant diagnoses.
    13. Will I be able to watch the psychometric test?

      Yes. ​If a child is uncomfortable or very young, a parent is welcome to sit with them. Generally, older children due to start school cope well on their own in the room with the psychologist. The parents will watch and hear the entire assessment through a one-way window.

    14. What if my child does not show their best on the day?

      It is not necessary to see your child performing at their very best level on a specific day. We would like to see activities your child finds easy and may find difficult. The assessment is trying to capture the typical performance and skill level on an average day. We also incorporate information from other settings into our report.

    15. What happens if my child can't be tested?

      The vast majority of children are able to be tested. However, occasionally, a child may not co-operate or be able to follow test instructions. In these circumstances, alternative assessment methods will be used. These may include questionnaires about the child or using external reports to assist. If a child is young and delayed, a repeat assessment may be scheduled prior to school commencement.

    16. What if my child is sick on the day of the assessment?

      It is important that your child is well on the day. If they are not well, please let us know as soon as possible and we will aim to re-schedule for the next available time.

    17. Will I get a report? Who else will see this report?

      You will get a short summary report including recommendations on the day of the assessment. A more detailed report will follow a few weeks later. The report is confidential and you can decide who you want to share this report with. We will not send the report to others without your consent. It is, however, very important that other professionals who help your child have the opportunity to read the report, so they are better able to help. The report will also go onto your child's electronic medical file which other professionals from Northern Sydney Local Health District can read. If you have any questions, please ask. (NSLHD Privacy brochure)

    18. Do you do repeat assessments ?

      Our service conducts Psychometric Assessments for children until they start school. Depending on the child's age at initial assessment, a repeat assessment may be needed. After that, school counsellors or private psychologists can conduct repeat assessments.​​​​​​​​​​

     Contact us


    RNSH Community Health Centre

    Level 2

    2C Herbert Street


    Tel: 02 9462 9288 Fax: 02 9462 9066


    Hours of Operation:

    Monday- Friday 9am - 5pm

    RNSH Community Health Building Map