New strategy to improve autism services to be published next year

New strategy to improve autism services to be published next year

The country's longest-established dedicated charity for people with autism has given a cautious welcome to the roll-out next year of a first-ever autism plan.

The Irish Society for Autism said the plan would need to have sufficient resources to enable recommendations to be effectively implemented as soon as possible.

Health Minister Simon Harris said a new autism strategy, to be published next year, would be included in the HSE's Service Plan for 2019. “I know that the HSE are putting a lot of effort and planning into the improvement of autism services and they have my full support in this,” said Mr Harris.

Meanwhile, the minister also confirmed a recruitment plan for 100 therapy posts to support children's disability services.

The minister yesterday published two reports on the prevalence of autism in Ireland and a review of services for people with autism.

The review recommends the development of a model of care and clinical pathway for people with autism spectrum disorders.

“The HSE needs to ensure that people with ASD and their families have easy access to various health care providers so that they get the right service at the right time,” it states.

The report recommends the establishment of a national oversight group to ensure there is a consistent approach across all community healthcare organisations.

“Service users need easy access to various services where they can move in and out, depending on their needs,” it urged.

The second report, that drew on a number of sources, found there was a strong case for estimating a prevalence rate of autism in children of between 1-1.5%.

The prevalence rate in Ireland is similar to recently reported rates in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Britain, Italy, United States Canada and Australia.

It points out that tools for screening and diagnosis of AST are limited by a lack of a true test for ASD, which remains a behaviorally-defined disorder.

Deputy director of the Irish Society for Autism, Tara Matthews hoped both reports would lead to improvements in services for all those living with autism and their families.

“We look forward to the implementation of the recommendations, which will be key to the success of autism services throughout Ireland,” said Ms Matthews.

“The society is also looking forward to seeing the Autism Bill progress into legislation to enshrine the rights of people with autism.”

The charity, founded in 1963 by parents of children with autism, is a founding member of the World Autism Organisation and Autism Europe.

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