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Claire Sugden calls for further investment in Autism Services

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Claire Sugden, Independent Assembly Candidate for East Londonderry has called for further investment in Autism Services, saying that children with Autism and their families are being failed.

Miss Sugden said : “Northern Ireland is failing children who have autism, and their families.

In February £2M was committed to reduce assessment waiting times and improve access to services. I have spoken to several families in recent weeks. They are not feeling the benefit of this extra support. Long waits for assessments and diagnosis mean that their children are not being reached early enough by specialists.

One family has told me that their son faces a 15 month wait for an assessment. This is not good enough. Early intervention is vital to the development of children who have autism yet there is a clear lack of investment in autism services.

Parents are worried that their children will not be ready to start school by the time they are assessed. Without this, children cannot access the educational provision that they need. There are concerns at a reluctance to statement children and to provide classroom assistants to help in their learning. These services are not child centred and for most families private services are an unrealistic option.

Processes urgently need to be remodeled. Waiting lists for assessments must be addressed and access to services improved. It is vital that children with autism have early access to the proper support they need for their development. This is an issue which I will be working on if elected in May.”

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