To mark ‘World Autism Day’ on Saturday 2 April, the Regional Autism Spectrum Disorder Network (RASDN) is highlighting its success in improving autism services across Northern Ireland.
The Network, managed by the Health and Social Care Board comprises parents, carers, users of services, voluntary and community organisations, Health and Social Care Trusts, Education and Library Boards and the Public Health Agency.
By working together, improvements have included reduced waiting times for assessment and diagnosis of autism.
Almost 2000 children are referred each year for an autism assessment within Northern Ireland. The number of children waiting more than 13 weeks for initial assessment has fallen by more than 90% since RASDN was established. In addition, 92% of children are now assessed within 13 weeks of referral, compared with only 50% one year ago. Where interventions are proposed these commence within 13 weeks in 98% of cases following diagnosis.
Other improvements include the planned introduction of regional care pathways for both children and adult services. These are to commence across all Trusts from April/May 2011 onwards. This will mean that no matter where you live in Northern Ireland, there will be a consistent approach to assessment, diagnosis and intervention for children and adults.
£1.54m has been invested in autism services over the last three years. In addition, a further £100,000 has been provided to begin developing much needed adult autism diagnostic services. This increased funding means that by the end of 2011/12 there will the equivalent of around 85 specialist autism posts across Northern Ireland.
Well aware of the improvements Michelle and Brian McGilligan, parents of nine year John who has autism said; “We are very grateful for the work that the Regional Autistic Network is doing to improve services. For our family it has been of great benefit to have the ongoing support from our local Trust’s specialist autism team. Going through the process can be very stressful and it is good to know that other parents will benefit from better services and shorter waiting lists to have their child assessed and diagnosed. We also appreciate the effort that is going into making services more accessible for all.”
Dr Stephen Bergin, Public Health Agency, Chair of the Network said; “RASDN aims to promote a ‘whole life’ approach that recognises the importance of early intervention, provision of integrated health and social care services, linking with key agencies such as education, employment, housing, leisure and social security and working with the voluntary sector.
“I am delighted that by working together we have made significant progress. Of course, there is still much to do particularly in terms of improving services for older adolescents and adults, but this gives us a positive basis on which to go forward.”
For further information please contact Martina McCafferty, Service Improvement Project Manager (Western Office) on Tel 7186 0086 or email@example.com
Information about RASDN can also be found on the Health and Social Care Board website on http://www.hscboard.hscni.net