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(Ireland) 13,700 children with autism; assessments woefully slow

Feb 18, 2019, Irish Examiner: Moving the goalposts won’t solve the problem of autism assessment wait lists Every year sees more and more delayed autism assessments. The HSE has a proposal to fix the problem, but is it simply a case of lack of resources? Michael Clifford reports. On Friday, February 7, the latest case about children being denied their rights was before the High Court. The case concerned three boys who have displayed symptoms consistent with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Their mother urgently wants her sons’ needs assessed in order to access treatment, if required. Early intervention is vital in attending to ASD. It can make the difference between somebody making giant strides towards functioning emotionally and socially or retreating into an often impenetrable cocoon. This reality is acknowledged in law. The 2005 Disability Act provides that children be assessed within a tight timeframe so that tailored treatment can be identified and started expeditiously. However, the HSE has consistently failed to comply with the law. Repeatedly, children have not been assessed within the legal timeframe, thus exposing them to a greater threat of not receiving treatment in a timely manner. The recent case before the High Court illustrates the point. Under the 2005 act, children must be assessed within three months of applying. A report of the assessment must be completed within another three months. The High Court heard that an application to have the three boys assessed was lodged in late March 2018. Yet nearly one year later, they are still waiting. … Yet thousands of children are being denied their right to timely assessment. According to HSE figures, the number of assessment applications not completed in the designated 90-day timeframe in 2008 was 1,143. By 2017, this figure had risen to 2,154. By October of last year, 3,662 assessments were overdue. Inevitably, this failure to observe the rights of children is going to lead to legal actions for damages. … Everybody agrees the current model is not working. Children’s rights are being abused. Increasingly, recourse is sought in the courts, eating up time and money. The prospects of wholesale actions for damages looms…. There are at least 13,700 children of school-going age who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to a recent report. The report, ‘Estimating Prevalence of ASD In The Irish Population’ was commissioned by the Department of Health and published last November…. The NCSE data does not take account of “the number of four-year-olds that are not in school, or children aged four or older who are on the Home Tuition scheme and not included in overall school population figures.” …
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