A YOUNG boy from Kilbrittain only received just 90 minutes of speech therapy and one hour of occupational therapy from the HSE in 14 months, despite an assessment saying he needed the vital services.
The situation of Noah O’Brien (5), and others like him, has been raised by Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns in the Dáil, who said: ‘I am contacted every week by families who are deeply concerned about a child or family member with autism spectrum disorder who cannot access the therapeutic interventions and educational supports to which he or she is entitled.’
She said the State is aware of the needs of these young people and the only thing missing ‘is the will to prove the vital services.’
In August 2020, an assessment of needs by the HSE determined that Noah would require psychology, OT, physio and speech and language support.
However, by October 24th 2021 Noah had only received 1.5 hours’ speech, one hour’s OT and 30 minutes of physio from the HSE.
His parents Seamas and Suzanne said they’re in the fortunate position of being able to get the supports their son needs privately.
He attends Sensational Kids in Clonakilty, who have been a great support, they said.
‘But in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to,’ said Seamas who added his wife had changed jobs, and reduced her work hours to care for their son.
In December 2020 Noah was diagnosed with ASD after the couple paid €1,400 for a private assessment.
Without this he wouldn’t have been able to enrol in an early intervention class in Kilbrittain NS, where he’s making great progress.
‘Timelines set out by HSE would have meant Noah would still have been waiting for diagnosis last September and as a result would be in mainstream school which would have been unsuitable,’ said Seamas.
Figures supplied to Deputy Cairns from Cork Kerry Community Healthcare (CKCH), showed that at the end of September, 41 children were on the waiting list for the West Cork network of the Children’s Disability Network Team (CDNT).
Of these, 30 children were waiting between four and eight months to access services, while the remaining 11 children were waiting less than four months. CKCH said the West Cork network continued to experience challenges, including the large number of caseloads and staff resources.
Deputy Cairns has also highlighted delays with the Autism Spectrum Bill which is aimed at addressing the inconsistencies and the availability and types of services for children and adults with ASD.
‘Unfortunately, the government wants to push back the Bill by a year to allow time for the development of the national autism innovation strategy.
‘I am not convinced by their arguments and am deeply concerned that this will contribute to delays in services,’ she said.
In January Seamas and Suzanne received confirmation that Noah’s care was being transferred to Children’s Disability Network Team in Carrigaline. Seamas concluded: ‘To say the support we have received to date has been underwhelming would be an understatement.’