22/12/2016

Number Of Children Waiting For Autism Assessment Increases By 280%

The number of children in Northern Ireland currently waiting for an autism spectrum assessment has risen by 280% over the last five years, the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) has revealed.

The number of children increased from 607 in 2012 to 2,325 in the same period this year.

Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, said she was "shocked" at the figures.

She said: "Whilst some of this can be explained by a significant increase in the number of referrals, it is yet another example of where demand is now far outstretching capacity in the local health service.
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"It is widely accepted that early intervention is far more cost effective, but even more importantly it is beneficial for young people. Receiving a timely diagnosis can enable parents to better understand their child and ensure that they have access to crucial help and support.

"Unfortunately, it often takes a couple years in the school system before families realise there may be a problem. If they are then forced to wait a couple more years for an assessment by that stage they’ve potentially lost much more ground and their long-term learning could be negatively impacted.

"The very first thing that needs to happen is ensuring we have a sufficient workforce that has the capacity to deliver these assessments, for until we do waiting times will inevitably continue to deteriorate."

(CD)

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