THE Health Service Executive has been forced to pay a number of organisations for private Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) assessments in Cork to address the extensive waiting list in the region.
ASD assessments are undertaken following an Assessment of Need (AON) which is crucial for children with autism or other learning and development difficulties as it enables them to access appropriate services such as speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, and special school places or supports.
Waiting times for an initial appointment at the three facilities which provide assessments in Cork recently stood at 24 months.
In a statement to The Echo, the HSE admitted that disability services in Cork Kerry Community Healthcare have been significantly challenged in terms of the volume of applications for AONs and the resultant volume of referrals for ASD, or stage two, for a number of years now.
A spokesperson said: “A number of organisations were identified through the process and were subsequently engaged to provide multidisciplinary assessments in order to address the extensive waitlist in Cork Kerry Community Healthcare.”
The numbers referred for ASD Assessment in Cork Kerry Community Healthcare are among the highest in the country, with around 65 referrals accepted for ASD assessments per month.
There were almost 900 children waiting at stage two of the AON process in Cork Kerry Community Healthcare at the end of last month — a reduction from 1,747 in March 2018.
These cases have been processed through Assessment of Need and are now waiting for clinical assessments to be completed.
More than 850 of these children have been referred for an ASD Assessment to the ASD assessment teams which are part of the HSE’s voluntary funded services.
On average 60% of the monthly AON applications received results in a referral for an ASD assessment.
“This is a significant challenge in terms of our capacity to respond to this need,” said the HSE spokesperson.