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Proposed autism diagnosis changes could limit access to speech therapy

Tuesday 6th June 2017
Authorities want to lower autism diagnoses, but this could prevent access to vital care and support, the National Autistic Society has warned. Image: FotoCuisinette via iStock
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Healthcare authorities in the UK are considering introducing new measures to reduce the number of children who are diagnosed with autism each year.
 
This revelation has been met with concerns from charities and campaign groups that work with autistic children, as diagnosing fewer cases of the condition could prevent young people from accessing vital care and support from specialists such as speech therapists.
 
It is a local alliance of five NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) based in south-west London that is behind the proposal, as they believe reducing the number of children who are deemed to be on the autistic spectrum would ease pressure on the NHS, particularly as the current waiting time for a diagnosis can be up to one year, BBC News reports.
 
But charities are arguing that this situation points to the need for more specialist staff to work with autistic children so they can be diagnosed quicker and begin receiving the support they need as early on as possible.
 
Sarah Lambert, head of policy at the National Autistic Society, which has written a letter to the five CCGs expressing its concerns, commented: "If it goes ahead, this will leave many local children without access to a diagnosis and unable to access the specialist support they desperately need. That will threaten their long-term prospects and put a greater strain on many already vulnerable families.
 
"An autism diagnosis can be life-changing. It can explain years of feeling different and help unlock crucial advice and support."
 
The ruling could see people who need support from specialists such as speech therapists unable to access this, leaving them struggling to communicate with their peers and integrate into society - something that could affect them for their whole lives.
 
As a result, the National Autistic Society wants to make sure that every child suspected to have autism continues to be assessed for the condition properly and is able to receive the support they require for their individual needs.
 
Written by Martin Lambert
 
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