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Autism campaigner backs calls for significant improvement in diagnosis waiting times

A leading autism campaigner has backed calls for significant improvement in diagnosis waiting times.

Anna Kennedy OBE, founder of national autism charity AnnaKennedyonline, has spoken out after the National Autistic Society sent an open letter to Rishi Sunak highlighting the lengthy waiting times for an autism assessment. 

Anna has campaigned for many years on autism diagnosis and the importance of early intervention.

She said: “Promises are made however, we see little very little action.

“I’m flooded with message across social media snd through the charity about wait times for an assessment for an autism diagnosis for their children.

“Parents are complaining of waiting between two and five years for a diagnosis for their child, and it is very much a postcode lottery.”

Recently Anna read an article that in central London families were waiting over a year for just for a referral diagnosis appointment, despite waiting time guidelines of three months.

Anna says the government has yet to complete previous promises by a host of Health secretaries to officially record the waiting time figures.

Anna says she was told that their were complex reasons for the delays, including increased demand for the assessment which had increased “significantly” in the last few years due to wider awareness about autism.

More families may believe their children are on the spectrum due to charities like AnnaKennedyonline forging ahead to raise awareness and acceptance.

Anna says the access to special needs services, which includes an educational psychologist’s report and a limited amount of free speech and language therapy on the NHS, appears to vary hugely depending on what part of the country the child lives in.

Not all local authorities, health or education services provided equally strong support according to the parents she spoke to.

Waiting a long time for a diagnosis means a window for early intervention could be missed.

She added: “It has an impact on the child, it has an impact on the school, which doesn’t know what they are dealing with. It has an impact on the siblings, and obviously the family.”

While some parents Anna has spoken to over the years campaigning did avoid seeking a “label”, others told Anna of being dismissed.

In its letter to Mr Sunak, the National Autistic Society reveals an estimated 88,000 children are waiting to be assessed for a diagnois.  It says: “You have the opportunity to end the autism diagnosis crisis in your Spring Statement, by allocating the urgent funding that the NHS in England needs to both increase the number of assessments carried out and tackle the backlog. No one should have to wait years for a life-changing autism diagnosis.”

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