Families are facing "unprecedented barriers" in securing autism assessment in Ireland 2 months ago

Families are facing "unprecedented barriers" in securing autism assessment in Ireland

Truly shocking.

Irish families of children with autism or suspected autism are facing "unprecedented barriers" right now trying to secure a timely assessment and autism diagnosis, according to Adam Harris, CEO of Ireland's national autism charity AsIAm.

Harris is keen to point out how wrong this is, and how critical it is for these families to vindicate their rights, including in the education system.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, he said the situation as it stands is "hugely disruptive" for families, many of whom had sought private assessment due to delays in the public health system.

"The fact that many families have not been able to access the diagnosis that is vital to assessing their needs has created this backlog."

Private system flooded with appointment requests

Following Harris' reveal of just how sure the situation is for families of children waiting for an autism assessment with the HSE, clinical psychologist Dr Sara O'Byrne, who runs the Treehouse Practice in Sandyford in Dublin, says she has had to close off the waiting list for autism assessments in her own practice due to the sheer number of people applying.

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"I opened back up for assessments at the end of April and within a matter of days all the available slots for the summer were taken," O'Byrne said.

"Our secretary would often have up to 10 calls per day from parents for these assessments and it is increasingly hard to know where to refer them on to.

She adds:

"The other services we have confidence in have waiting lists of six-to-nine months, this is also privately."

The problem, she says, is that the HSE's Assessment of Need process, specifically the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), simply does not work, and the procedure has been heavily criticised as not providing an early diagnosis.

"Having not completed these assessments for a couple of years I was shocked with how much worse things seem to be, Dr O'Byrne said.

"The standard operating procedure under Assessment of Need has not helped as this has not led to diagnosis and has driven people into the private sector, which is also heavily oversubscribed."

She adds:

"I hope we can open back up [the assessment list] again towards the end of the year but we will never be able to meet the demand and there will be lots of children waiting far longer than they should."