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(Ireland) Endless waitlists for children with autism; parents 'at their wits end'

Sept 4, 2023, Independent: Children with Autism in Louth being let down by CAMHS service

Children with a diagnosis of Autism or Intellectual Disability can’t even get a spot the third worst CAMHS waiting list in Ireland. [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services]

This stark statement has been confirmed by parent Jacinta Walsh, who also founded Drogheda ABACAS Special School for Children with Autism and Complex Needs.

She says the recent report from the Mental Health Commission cataloguing multiple and endemic failings across the HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) has come as no surprise to parents and children who have additional needs in the Drogheda area.

Figures published this week show that this Community Health Area (CHO8) has the third highest waiting list figures in the country.

Indeed, children with additional needs are routinely not added to the waiting list at all in this and other areas because, CAMHS say, they “do not have the resources” to support affected children, for example those with a diagnosis of Autism.

”I have experienced this myself,” says Jacinta. “My autistic son was in serious crisis ten years ago. He has a diagnosis of autism and intellectual disability and CAMHS refused to see him or even so much as add him to their waiting list.

For children under 18 with mental health issues and who need medication, the only people who can prescribe this are psychiatrists or consultant paediatricians. As a result many children are not seen by anyone because CAMHS will not see them and there are very few private child psychiatrists in Ireland…

Jacinta says such children and teenagers are extremely vulnerable and live with high anxiety and other serious issues which may often manifest assaultive or aggressive behaviours….

”My family was in that situation for years,” said Jacinta, “but we finally found a private child psychiatrist in Dublin (who has since retired) and this made a huge difference to our son.

"As a family we were in a crisis situation for years and this could have been prevented or alleviated had our son had access to the supports he needed at an earlier stage.

Unfortunately, in the intervening ten years the situation has only gotten worse. At Autism Support Louth & Meath we are contacted by parents on a weekly basis who are at their wits end trying to get mental health help for their children and CAMHS will not accept the referral.”…


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