top of page

(UK) NI: 11,000 children waiting for ASD assessment; more than 2,200 in Western Trust

May 2, 2024, Ireland Live: (NI) Autism diagnosis delays - “Toll on families is profound” 

Derry & Strabane Council is to formally request Stormont draft an urgent plan for reducing autism assessment waiting times after recent figures showed more than 2,200 children and adults in the Western Trust area are awaiting diagnosis.

Elected representatives have approved a motion recommending that Derry and Strabane Council write to the Minister for Health Robin Swann, Minister for Education Paul Givan, and Minister for Finance Caoimhe Archibald, to “urgently develop and present a business case” with clear reduction targets for assessment wait times.

As part of the motion, proposed by SDLP councillor Lilian Seenoi-Barr last week, the council intends to seek collaboration with other councils across the north, to bolster support for the action plan. 

Cllr. Seenoi-Barr urged that “unacceptable waiting times for autism assessments” are “causing significant hardship and developmental delays”, as she prompted the council to recognise that “early intervention is critical for developing key skills in children with autism, yet the backlog hinders timely support, impacting individual potential and straining educational and healthcare services.”

Waiting lists for autism spectrum disorder assessment and diagnosis have reached “remarkable” levels with 11,000 children in Northern Ireland awaiting assessment at the start of 2024, with 2,238 adults and children in the Western Trust catchment area and the longest individual wait so far reaching four and a half years. 

Commenting further, Cllr. Seenoi-Barr said: “As a mother of a son with autism, I know first hand the challenges families are facing without an assessment. The mental health toll on families is profound and, given how important early intervention is, these waits are unsustainable and threatening the opportunities of so many people across the North. I had to fight for my son for over four years to get services, so I hope that the Ministers will recognise the urgency of taking action on this issue.”

DUP Alderman Julie Middleton said waiting times were “simply unacceptable”, and it was “heartbreaking” that families were resorting to costly private assessments. 

It was confirmed recently by Health Minister, Robin Swann, that the number of children and adults waiting for an autism assessment in the Western Trust more than doubled over the past five years from 998 in December 2019 to 2,238 at the beginning of this year.


bottom of page