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(Ireland) Official calls 2-3 yr wait for autism assessment 'unacceptable' 'unfair'

Sept 2, 2021, Anglo-Celt: Call for greater autism supports for children https://www.anglocelt.ie/2021/09/02/call-for-greater-autism-supports-for-children/

It’s been a tough week for Bailieborough mother Joanne Regan. As well as preparing to get three of her children back to school, she has been trying to make sure her son Joey has a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) in place. Joey started his national school education in St Anne’s on Monday, but Joanne only received notification that there would be support available for her child on Friday evening last. Joanne first raised concern about her son when he was 18 months old and, a year later, at two and a half years, he was referred to Enable Ireland for assessment. Joey’s first appointment came in March 2020, but Covid restrictions slowed down the assessment process. “I have reports from a year ago when they identified behavioural issues. This was not an autism assessment. They are only undertaking that at the moment,” explained mum Joanne. St Anne’s have a highly regarded set up for educating children with special needs. It is a mixed school with 12 mainstream classes and five special education classes, which cater for children with autism and mild general learning difficulties. The delay experienced by Joanne highlighted the waiting times for assessments for autism and the wider under resourcing of autism and disability services, as raised by Cllr Sarah O’Reilly at a recent Cavan County Council meeting. Cllr O’Reilly said: “A waiting time of two to three years is unacceptable to the families of children awaiting diagnoses, it is unfair to the children themselves, it does not sit easy with me and of course the families of children with Autism are hugely frustrated, they know that early intervention is key to successful outcomes for their children, while they are left waiting.” This is echoed by Joanne: “It feels like I take two steps forward, then take 10 steps backward. It feels as if, when I make any headway, it makes no difference. He is a child with additional needs, he has been referred since he was two and a half and he is five now.”… Cllr Sarah O’Reilly says the situation the Bailieborough mum finds herself in is not unique. She says it is time for action: “They are what I call ‘the forgotten children’ any services they get is because their families have fought tooth and nail to get them, this should not be the way. I would ask Minister Donnelly to recognise the failings in the system and put measures in place that allow for assessments in a timely manner and are fair to everyone no matter what their background or financial status,” she concluded.