DESPITE NHS guidelines ruling that children suspected of having autism should be screened within three months, parents in south Essex are being forced to face waits of up to two years.
Essex County Council’s latest report into the issue, which shows appointments often take up to 15 months, has been met with mounting frustration from those whose children are on the waiting list.
Autism Spectrum Disorder, known as ASD, is a lifelong developmental disability. Its core symptoms include language impairment, social deficits and repetitive behaviours.
The condition, which can also bring mood disorders, requires a fast diagnosis to help autistic people, and their families, to receive crucial help to get by in life.
One parent, who wants to remain anonymous, told how his five-year-old son, who is struggling at a mainstream school, has been waiting 16 months for an assessment.
In contrast, another parent told how their 12-year-old son is “flying high” socially and academically after receiving an early assessment four years ago.
In response to the findings, South Essex Mental Health Partnership (SEPT) has increased funding into its Aspergers service and invested in training for additional staff to carry out assessments.
One parent, who lives in Rayleigh, which is covered by Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Being on the waiting list is very stressful. Initially, when my wife took my son to the doctor, she was told he was ‘just a naughty child’.
“We finally managed to get him on the list. We’ve been waiting for a year, and six months ago we were told by the CCG the waiting list is now 18 months.”
The father-of-three, who also has a seven-year-old with attention deficit disorder, added: “Our youngest son struggles with his temper, especially when you have to get him dressed for school, and I have scratches all over my arms from trying to get him dressed every day. It’s tough because they are the loveliest children when they are happy.”
He told that when autism specialists at Southend’s Lighthouse Child Development Centre referred his son to Kent’s Lorna Wing Centre for Autism for diagnosis, the family were in high hopes. But those hopes have so far come to nothing.
He added: “The waiting list needs money thrown at it.
“One of the most frustrating things is we have not been told when our boys will be seen.
“In frustration I recently phoned the Lorna Wing Centre directly. I was devestated to be told the CCG’s contract with the Lorna Wing ends in July, and neither of our boys’ names are on the list for treatment before that time.”
“We have tried to talk to the CCG, the Lighthouse Centre and our doctor, and nobody will give us a straight answer about where they are on the waiting list.”