Wednesday 12 December 2018

Two-year delays in assessments of special needs

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Children with special needs who are waiting to be assessed are facing delays of more than two years in some parts of the country, the Oireachtas health committee has been told.

The preliminary team assessment to determine if a child has a disability must then take no more than 90 minutes.

The assessment is in order to determine the kind of care and education they should get.

But serious concerns were expressed by health professionals and parents about aspects of an overhaul of the assessment system which will have to beat the clock.

Margaret Lennon, one of the co-founders of the Domiciliary Care Allowance Warriors group, representing 20,000 parents, said: "Diagnosis is the gateway to treatment and the subsequent reduction of symptoms and increased cognitive and adaptive functioning for the majority of children on the autism spectrum.

"Every day this is delayed leads to missed learning opportunities.

"We in particular have issue with the initial screening process, which consists of an overly complicated application form, additional information sought by phone, and then a preliminary team assessment, of no more than 90 minutes.

"We do not consider this a sufficient amount of time to make a determination of disability in a child.

"Correct assessment and diagnosis is vital for parents in order to be able to effectively advocate for their child.

"Under the Constitution, parents are the primary educators of the child, and with complex health and educational needs, it is essential that these needs are determined under clinical best-practice standards," she added.

The new system could lead to a child going on to another waiting list which could then mean a delay of four years for some services.

"Not having timely and full assessment and diagnosis, where warranted, of a child's needs puts a child at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to having their health and educational needs met, with knock-on effects into the applications for school supports, specialised school placements, preschool and home tuition."

The knock-on effects of delay in the area of mental health particularly "are in some cases catastrophic".

Irish Independent

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