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(UK) Essex: Autism referrals 'going through the roof'

Jan 6, 2023, Yellow Advertiser: Autism referrals soar across Essex

E. England

Referrals for autism diagnosis in Essex are “going though the roof”, the county council has heard.
Over the past 18 months the number of referrals in northeast Essex have tripled, in west Essex numbers have doubled and in Mid and South Essex referrals have been “progressively increasing since that that point,” Shivaun Jacobs joint commissioning program director for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) told a health committee on January 5.
The increases are being blamed on factors related to Covid which has hindered social interactions among younger people and children.

But Covid has also negatively affected parents’ ability and capability to manage children whose behaviour is a typical, the committee heard.

Shivaun Jacobs, joint commissioning program director for ASD, said: “Since 2021, so kind of the middle of Covid sort of time, we have seen new referrals go through the roof….

“Insights from our providers suggest the impact of Covid and the return to school may have been one of those drivers in terms of behavioural changes, poor language and social skills, particularly for our younger age groups in the early years setting where they had no social interaction where you would normally go into nursery and socialise.

“Ofsted published a report back in December 2022 and it really does show the impact of Covid in terms of the wider determinants of of health for children and their families. Not just the children but in terms of the parenting ability and capability to manage children whose behaviours probably aren’t as normal as they should have been.”

From data from September 2022 show health services in Essex have approximately 4 000 children who are awaiting specialist autism assessment.

A total of 11,474 adults in Essex are predicted to have autistic spectrum disorders. This number is expected to increase to 12,606 by 2035.

Essex County Council currently has 11,489 Education, Health and Care Plans. Of these, 37 per cent are linked to autism.
Essex County Council’s short breaks services currently have 5,330 children and young people registered. Of those, 56 per cent per cent have autism listed as a primary diagnosis….

“So when we see something written that it is going to take 24 months for a child to have a diagnosis or a an assessment it’s actually the journey in between. And if you take an individual child they’re not all going straight on for assessment, They will need multiple investigations.”


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