The Joint Committee on Higher Psychiatric Training lists the ability to carry out a thorough clinical assessment including physical and mental state examination, as one of the essential core skills in child and adolescent psychiatry. Experience of the assessment of comparatively rare disorders may depend upon the organisation of regional services, as well as good working relationships between teams willing to involve the trainee.
This paper describes a six-month attachment to the first multi-disciplinary Specialist Assessment Clinic for Pervasive Developmental Disorders to be created in Northern Ireland. Assessments are multi-dimensional and multi-professional. Attachment to this specialist clinic has become a valuable resource, with demand exceeding availability of places.
The pervasive developmental disorders are characterised by onset before 36 months, qualitative impairments in social interaction and communication (both verbal and non-verbal), and a pattern of repetitive or stereotyped activities or interests (DSM-IV). Diagnostic criteria for these disorders have broadened since the introduction of DSM-IV and ICD–10. For example, both have now agreed the validity of Asperger's syndrome, featuring difficulties in social interaction, restricted and repetitive areas of interest, without clinically significant impairment of intelligence or language development.
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