The late diagnosis of children with autism has a damaging impact, experts are warning.
Laura Crane, a research fellow at City University London has highlighted that 52 per cent of parents with autistic children are not happy with the diagnosis process, meaning that the current procedures need to be improved urgently.
Indeed, children with autistic spectrum disorder are having to wait more than three and a half years just to be diagnosed, while those with Asperger’s syndrome are having to wait even longer. A study of 1,000 parents showed that the average time it took for their children to be diagnosed was over four years, which is hindering their chances of receiving the extra care and support they need while at school.
Dr Crane added that such delays could “hinder the implementation of effective support or intervention strategies”.
While the parents sought help and diagnosis on average when their children were around four years old, with the formal diagnosis happening around the age of seven, there were still many who were much older by the time they were diagnosed.
Dr Crane’s work builds upon a previous survey that was conducted by the National Autistic Society (NAS) in 2012, which discovered that 34 per cent had to wait three years for diagnosis, with 30 per cent having to wait between one and two years.
Dan Leighton, policy and parliamentary officer at NAS, said: “Such delays often mean that children miss out on support or are given the wrong help, which can have a highly damaging impact on their education, mental health and long-term development.”
Such late diagnosis can clearly have an impact as the sooner a child is diagnosed with autism, the sooner they can receive the support they require, including assistive technologies which can help autistic children.
Jo Galloway, principal of the National Autistic Society’s Radlett Lodge School, said: “In my experience, when a child is diagnosed early, the right intervention can be put in place and children can be supported to progress and live the life that they and their parents choose.
“But in reality, too many parents experience long delays getting a diagnosis for their child and have to wait far too long to access the right support, which in most cases slows down or limits progress,” she added.
The new findings are more relevant than ever as it was reported in TES on January 23rd that the government had actually cut its spending from 2009 - 10 to 2012 - 13 on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) from £766 million to £717 million.