Limerick children waiting two years for autism assessments

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Autism test
Boy taking ASD test

CHILDREN in Limerick City are waiting up to two years for an assessment to determine whether they are on the autism spectrum or have other difficulties.

Parents enquiring recently about an estimated length of wait for an assessment at the Blackberry Park Centre in Ballykeefe received a letter stating that as one of the psychologists is on maternity leave and no funding has been provided for cover, no projected date for assessment is possible.

The letter advises that a list of psychologists accepted by the HSE is available for parents who wish to have assessments done privately.

Limerick Metropolitan District councillor, John Costelloe said that he has had numerous requests for help from parents “who are waiting between 18 months and two years for an assessment.

“This is not good enough and far too long in terms of the life of a young child and a worried family,” he told the Limerick Post.

The Sinn Fein City North councillor tabled a motion at last week’s City Council meeting calling on the local authority to write to Health Minister Simon Harris and call on him to address the inadequate staffing issue.

“It costs upwards of €800 to get a private assessment done and people can’t afford that. Without that paperwork, families can’t begin to apply for supports for their children who need them. It even goes as far as affecting people’s housing applications. An assessment that a child has particular needs can help fast-track a housing application but without it, there’s nothing applicants can do,” he explained.

Sinn Féin councillor John Costelloe
Limerick City North Sinn Féin councillor John Costelloe

A HSE spokesperson said: “There are a number of teams like Blackberry Park in Limerick and a number of other services apart from disability which have HSE psychologists.

“Blackberry Park is a School Age Disability Team and is part of the wider Mid West School Age Disability Services. The Team provides a service to children with special needs in 25 mainstream schools and one special school in Limerick city.

“The Team currently has 372 children on its caseload and has an allocated resource of 1.5 psychologists. Both these posts are currently filled.  There is a waiting list in this team, as well as nationally, for ASD assessments.

“Currently, there are 46 children awaiting ASD assessments. The HSE Mid West continues to make every effort to address these waiting lists and reduce the waiting times for families.