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(UK) Leeds: "City-wide freeze" in ASD assessments

May 16, 2024, (UK) BBC News: Family frustrated as daughter left waiting for autism diagnosis

NW England

A family have shared their frustration about an 18-month wait for their child to receive an autism diagnosis amid a city-wide freeze in assessments.

Beth Madigan and Andrew Thomas, who live in Leeds, hope Lexi, 4, can see a psychologist before she starts school.

Their MP, Labour's Alex Sobel, discovered that all pre-school autism assessments in Leeds had been suspended for six months due to a lack of staff.

West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board said assessment access was a priority.

Speaking to BBC Look North, Mr Thomas said time was running out for Lexi to get the extra support she needed before she was due to start school in September. . . .

Mr Thomas explained they had spotted the potential signs of autism in Lexi as her behaviour was significantly different to older sister, Nina. . . .

Ms Madigan said a diagnosis for Lexi would "be the start of the journey for her to get the support she needs". . . .

Mr Sobel, who is the MP for Leeds North West, said: "The explanation of a temporary suspension of pre-school autism assessments due to a shortage of professionals is simply unacceptable. . . .

Ms Caulfield, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department of Health and Social Care, added: "The post has recently been recruited, and plans are in place for the service to reopen by the end of June."

The government said it was "taking action to reduce assessment delays", adding it understood the importance of children having a "timely diagnosis of autism".

"We made £4.2m [$5.3M] available last year to improve services for autistic children and young people, including autism assessment services, and NHS England has published a national framework to help speed up autism assessments," a government spokesperson said.

It had launched a £13m [$16M partnership to improve specialist support for neurodiverse children in primary schools, they added.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) - its medical name - is the name for a range of conditions which affect how a person communicates and interacts with the world around them, as well as their interests and behaviour.

It is not a disease or an illness but a condition somebody is born with.

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