Aug 25, 2020, Dublin Journal: The long wait for autism assessment: 'From cautiously optimistic to desperately worried' https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/child-autism-assessment-covid-5180434-Aug2020 WE’VE BEEN WAITING for over a year for my five-year-old son’s assessment of need with the HSE, with no sign of an appointment yet. He has had significant speech delay, it’s a struggle to understand him and he gets frustrated easily. Based on our own research, we think he has sensory processing disorder, an attention deficit disorder and is probably on the autism spectrum, but he hasn’t been seen by anyone qualified yet. In January, after five months on the waiting list, I was told by our local disability officer that it would be a few more months to get the initial appointment. They recommended I lodge a complaint with the HSE about missing the three month deadline as they are badly under-resourced and there’s no way for them to meet the three month commitment. They added that the more complaints that are lodged, the more of a case they can build with the HSE to get more resources. So I did, and of course it did nothing. I got a boilerplate letter in the post. Then the pandemic hit and they kindly let us know that everything was now on hold indefinitely. ‘Lost so so much’ The average waiting time is 19 months, in spite of legal requirements stating that the HSE should commence an assessment within three months and complete it within six months. We’re still waiting. My son has missed out on six months of socialisation and development since March. He also missed out on all the prep for big school which they had planned in the last few months of playschool…. He doesn’t have a diagnosis so he’s going from a long-distant playschool environment where the child-teacher ratios were three-to-one, with a dedicated teacher who spent 80% of her time with just my son, to a primary school environment. The teacher ratio, in a good year, will be 30-to-one as opposed to three-to-one. Not only that but in a rushed and underprepared pandemic setup that no one really understands…. My child is (probably) autistic with ADHD and can’t talk clearly. How the hell is this supposed to work? ‘Nothing happened and nothing changed’ In May, I contacted some of my local TDs in Wicklow about the impact of lockdown on children with special needs. Jennifer Whitmore of the Social Democrats raised it in the Dáil. Minister for Children Katherine Zappone, before she left office, said someone would look into it. Nothing happened and nothing changed.
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