Fianna Fáil General Election candidate for Galway West John Connolly says he is shocked by the Government’s treatment of children with autism in Galway. Hundreds of children are facing long delays for assessment because of excessively high waiting lists.
He said that under disability legislation, introduced by a previous Fianna Fáil government, children with development issues, such as delayed communication or speech, are legally entitled to have their needs assessed within a six-month window, however this is simply not happening.
“Early intervention for speech and language and Autism spectrum disorders is essential but unfortunately many children are being left behind as a result of massive underfunding. It is a disgraceful that a child with a delayed development disorder can only access assessment and treatment in a timely manner if their parents can afford to pay for it. The simple fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of families for which this is not an option and they are solely reliant on the state funded system – a system that is failing them.
“The current system punishes children with diagnosed speech and language difficulties that may also be on a waiting list for ASD assessment. These children are being denied speech and language therapy while they await ASD assessment. This is an intolerable situation. The Government are using the lengthy assessment period for ASD as a reason to deny children their required speech therapy,” he said.
Mr Connolly said that new figures released to Fianna Fáil reveal just how little the Government is doing to address out of control waiting lists.
“Nationally there are 12,835 people (mostly children ) awaiting assessment, while another 8,363 are on waiting lists for treatment. There are currently no regional breakdowns available but there is no doubt that there are hundreds of children across Galway waiting for assessment and treatment.
“Despite these high numbers, the response from the Government and the HSE has been pitiful. Of the 27 additional therapists recruited nationally, a paltry six new Speech and Language Therapists assigned to the West region which covers Galway, Roscommon and Mayo. This is a damning indictment of this Government’s priorities. Children with special needs are being left behind and the Government is doing practically nothing to address it,” he concluded.