Over 100 children in the Northern Trust area have been waiting more than 13 weeks for assessment or diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder, new figures have revealed.
According to the figures, received by UUP MLA Sandra Overend from the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Northern Trust has the second highest waiting times for diagnosis of ASD across Northern Ireland.
The latest figures, which date to August this year, show that 105 children have been waiting over 13 weeks in the Northern Trust area for an assessment.
The figures also reveal that 107 children have been waiting between 8 and 13 weeks and 62 children have been waiting between 4 and 8 weeks.
Mrs Overend, who is the Ulster Unionist Party spokesperson for Children and Young People, commented: “Having been contacted by parents with a child waiting months for a diagnostic of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), I asked the Health Minister to detail the waiting times for an assessment across each of the Trust areas. The figures revealed are very concerning.
“Figures for the Northern Health and Social Trust show that, as of 31 August 2014, there were 105 children waiting more than 13 weeks for an assessment. That is simply not good enough. More often than not, these assessments will find that a child has quite complex needs. This is already clearly an anxious time for families, who are worried about their children and keen to have as much detailed information as possible about their condition. Having to wait months for appointments is only adding to this stress.
“An early diagnosis is essential in order to put in place the help and support that a child needs, both at home and at school. A diagnostic ASD assessment will give parents and teachers the information they need to determine the level of support that a child will require, ensuring they will not be at a disadvantage in the education system. It is vital that the Trust take action to reduce these waiting times so that children can receive the help that they need without delay.”
Responding to the query over assessment waiting times, a spokesperson for the Northern Trust told the MAIL:
“The Northern Trust has the largest population of children (0-18 years old) of any Trust in Northern Ireland.
“Since the establishment of the Autism Service the referral rate has significantly increased year on year since 2010/2011, there has been an increase of 80% in referrals.
“It is important to note that different Trusts across Northern Ireland operate different models of referral and diagnostic assessment so it is not accurate to compare Trusts in this way.”
The Northern Trust have a special dedicated section on their website for more information on Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) relating to both children and adults. You can find out more by visiting http://www.northerntrust.hscni.net/services/2123.htm