The running of SchoolKit Clinics is guided by a set of six foundation principles. These principles address the expectations and obligations of the many different parties involved. It is essential to the success of SchoolKit Clinics that all professional personnel involved fully understand the foundation principles and are committed to them.
Foundation Principle #1 – Access
Young people with intellectual disability, and their carers and families, are given every assistance to learn about and access the range of health and support services available to them.
Children and young people with intellectual disability have poorer health outcomes and greater difficulty accessing health care compared to the general population. They experience a higher prevalence of significant medical problems and they have various psychosocial needs. In combination, their needs can be complex and require the involvement of a number of specialists from multiple disciplines.
But carers and families often access health and support services for the young person in their care much less often than they could do. This happens for a number of reasons.
For a start, children with intellectual disability usually have a reduced ability to monitor their own health or communicate symptoms of illness and changes in levels of pain. This means it can take some time before a parent or carer becomes aware of a problem and seeks professional help.
Through consultation with parents and carers the Metro-Regional Intellectual Disability Network has identified a number of additional barriers to access:
- A lack of appropriate services available for assessment and diagnosis locally (i.e. services with disability experience, and those adopting a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach);
- Long waiting lists, and also the difficulties involved in requiring a child or young person to wait in waiting rooms (e.g. sensory overload and an inability to understand the purpose of waiting leading to impatience expressed through behavioural problems);
- Lack of social supports, lack of financial resources and limitations on the overall capacity of a parent or carer (e.g. transport not available, changing contact details, depression, stress and carer fatigue)
All of these barriers to accessing multiple health and support services are compounded even further when a family lives in a regional or remote area.
Addressing Barriers to Access
The SchoolKit Clinic model addresses all of the above issues. At the child’s school, school staff are able to manage the family being seen as a priority; the meeting environment is familiar to the student and family; the student is able to stay in class if need be; and special transport does not need to be factored in.
At SchoolKit Clinics, young people and their families have the opportunity to meet with clinicians and specialists from multiple disciplines at one time and in one place. They have the opportunity to seek and receive advice on what services are available to them through different agencies, and which of these will best suit their needs. They also benefit from the input of a range of professionals in determining the best balance of services that will work for them after all factors have been weighed up.
Meanwhile, SchoolKit Clinics give health professionals the opportunity to see clients who may otherwise be ‘lost’ to the medical system, and whose medical concerns might otherwise be left unaddressed.
In this way SchoolKit Clinics have the capacity to reduce emergency department visits and hospital admissions.