Research shows that early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) leading to early interventions and treatment can have major long-term positive effects on symptoms and later skills.
However, delays in public assessment mean many children wait for months or even years for a diagnosis, with some parents resorting to the High Court to have their children assessed.
In order to be assessed for ASD, people can apply directly to teams such as Early Intervention and School Age Disability team. Many parents also apply for an assessment of need, a HSE process to determine if a child has a disability and the services needed. Both systems have long waiting lists.
The Disability Act 2005 states that the HSE should commence an assessment for children with additional needs, such as autism, within three months and complete it within six months. However, less than 10% of assessments of need are being carried out are within the statutory time-frame.
At the end of December 2020, the average waiting time was almost 20 months and there were over 4,700 children with overdue assessments.
ASD is a group of life-long neurodevelopmental conditions that are estimated to affect between 1% and 1.5% of the population. This higher estimate equates to over 14,000 pupils with ASD in the Irish school system.
So, why has the Government not resolved this long-standing situation and what impact are these delays having on children?
HELP US INVESTIGATE
We want to find out just how bad the problem is and what is causing the long waiting lists and delays for public ASD assessment.
We want to investigate what impact these delays are having on children and families around the country.
Private assessments can cost up to €1,800 and are not always recognised by the HSE. We want to find out whether these waiting lists are fuelling a private industry as well as inequality when it comes to support provided by schools and the State.
Have you any information that you think would help this investigation, contact us at [email protected]
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