Living with autism: Early diagnosis is platform for a much brighter future

editorial image

Your son being diagnosed with autistim can be a “blessing,” because it unlocks support and services as well as helping the whole family to understand what is happening.

That’s according to one mum whose son has been diagnosed with asperger syndrome.

Her son said that he too wished he had been diagnosed sooner. “I always knew I was different, now I know why.”

That was the story of one of the constituents of Jo Cox’s, MP for Batley and Spen.

Mrs Cox said: “He is one of the lucky ones because his parents had the ability to pay for a private diagnosis.”

But for many other families in the area, who would struggle to raise around £2,500 for a private diagnosis, they have faced a long backlog of diagnosis delays.

Mrs Cox, who has recently lobbied in parliament for a reduction in waiting times for a diagnosis, said: “Tragically many thousands of people up and down the country are waiting far too long for a

diagnosis.”

On average the current wait for children is now over three-and-a-half years. And many adults receive a diagnosis around five years after their concerns first emerge, according to Mrs Cox.

Autism is the name for a range of conditions that affect the way a person sees the world, processes information and interacts with other people.

People with autism typically find it difficult to develop social relationships, communicate with others and think in the abstract. Often the condition is almost unnoticeable, and people may not be diagnosed until

they are in their twenties, thirties or forties.

Mrs Cox said: “The diagnosis is a critical milestone. It helps individuals take control of their lives and can unlock access to essential support and services. And it can be just as important for parents, friends and loved ones, enabling them to better understand their child, friend or partner.”

Since Ms Cox’s speechin the House of Commons, NHS North Kirklees and Greater Huddersfield CCGs have agreed plans to reduce waiting times for autism spectrum condition (ASC) assessments in Kirklees.

The CCGs have invested around £340,000 to fund an increased number of ASC assessments over the next 12 months. This will see the number of assessments rise from around four to approximately 16 each month. Additional assessments will be available from this April.

Ms Cox said: “I am delighted that Kirklees’ two CCGs have just announced a plan to clear the backlog locally.” Some of the difficulties which may be felt by a family when it comes to autism are shown in the new BBC One drama The A Word, which follows the story of a fiveyear-old with the condition.

Written by award winner Peter Bowker, it has an impressive cast and crew, including Christopher Eccleston, Morven Christie, Lee Ingleby and Greg McHugh and has been produced with support from the National Autistic Society which has been working with the show’s production team for over a year, reviewing scripts and advising on issues related to autism diagnosis. Set in the stunning surroundings of the Lake District, The A Word explores complex family relationships in a small, fairly isolated town, and the impact a young boy’s autism has on his family and close-knit community.

For more information on autism, go to the website at www.autism.org.uk.