Recently the National Autistic Society (NAS) launched their Autism Diagnosis Crisis campaign. The campaign states:
“This is why we launched the Autism diagnosis crisis campaign in August 2015 – to tell the Government and NHS to prioritise timely autism diagnosis.”
What is interesting is that they found the average waiting time for children to be diagnosed as 3.5 years. This is from them first going to their GP and asking for the diagnosis process to begin.
Anna Kennedy Online conducted their own survey ‘Autism Diagnosis Survey in the UK’ early last year and it found that on average children were having to wait 5 years for a diagnosis. They also launched a petition asking for consistency within the NHS regarding autism diagnosis, the findings of which they presented to Department of Health officials. Anna Kennedy Online, are still very much working on this campaign and liaising with families.
Autism diagnosis times are not recorded as other medical and health procedures are. The NAS is calling on the NHS and Government to change this. There needs to be a comprehensive record of how long adults and children are waiting to receive an autism diagnosis. This would help to improve the service and overall waiting times.
Last week thousands of NAS supporters signed an open letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, to ask that priority should be given to autism diagnosis with the aim of reducing waiting times.
I know first hand how important early diagnosis is.
We were lucky, as my son was diagnosed fairly young, at age 3. But this was mainly because we were in the right place at the right time.
We received help, support and specialist services for him. But I didn’t go to my GP; this was through my wonderful children’s centre, Heath Visitor, specialist outreach worker and fellow parent carers.
Without a diagnosis we would have been lost, and I mean completely lost. This is the sad reality for many families, as they watch their child struggle in nursery and school without support and specialist services. Both the child and parent need to be supported. Early diagnosis is crucial. It is crucial for the best possible start in life, to help with language development and social skills. All children deserve the same care and education, but many of our children on the autistic spectrum are being failed due to late diagnosis.
Diagnosis though is just the beginning. Individuals need ongoing support and specialist services. The diagnosis is only the start of the journey. The NHS need to consider how they care for and, deliver services throughout the individual’s life.