Concern over Shropshire families missing out on early autism diagnoses
A leading clinical psychologist has raised concerns that children and young people with suspected autism in Shropshire may be missing out on securing early diagnosis and treatment.
It comes after Shropshire Council pledged that “urgent” work was underway to improve special needs and disability provision in the county following a critical report of the services earlier this year by Ofsted and The Care Quality commission.
Dr Lisa Williams, clinical psychologist with The Autism Service based in Shrewsbury, said early diagnosis was vitally important and many families are having to pursue privately funded assessments to get the help they need.
Government Inspector Lesley Yates had listed “key findings” in the report including “current speech and language therapy service specifications were not fit for purpose” with children and young people experiencing “significant waits for assessment and treatments”, and there was “no effective pathway for specialist assessment of autism spectrum disorder for children over five”.
Dr Williams has more than 14 years’ experience and has specialised in the area of autism and mental health.
She said: “We have received referrals for children who have been on a waiting list for an autism assessment for more than three years.
“We also see children who have been denied assessment by the NHS because they do not present in a textbook way.
“These families have nowhere to turn other than seeking a private assessment.
“An early diagnosis is very important and can be huge in terms of preventing psychological difficulties – any adult who was late to be diagnosed will tell you this.
“A major worry about delayed assessment are the children who do not even have autism.
“They often get treated as if they have autism whilst they are waiting. This impacts on identity, stops them receiving the correct care and affects relationships.
“Parents want help and do not want obstacles getting in the way of their child receiving the care they deserve.
“As a psychologist, I am greatly concerned about the impact of waiting and the lack of specialist follow-up on the child.
“It is harmful to their development and we would be happy to work with commissioners to assist them in making improvements.”
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