lmost a year has assed since I initiated a debate on Autism. This week in the Seanad I pressed for more funding to be made available:
“The issue [of autism] has arisen in this House more than in the other, and there is all-party support in the area. We could continue that debate and squeeze some money out of the Minister.
“We should get a commitment from the Minister for an extra grant for autism. We might achieve something by doing that in this House… All sides appear to agree on the issue and it could be taken seriously here.”
On 11 June 2003 I was granted an extended debate on the matter of services for children with autism. A call was made for much needed dedicated facilities for autistic children to be provided by the state. Extracts from the debate below.
It is only now that we are beginning to discover the large extent of the problems involved with autism. One encounters denial of its existence, faulty diagnosis and an ignorance of the difficulty of raising autistic children.
Any suggestion that the resources are not there to provide for autistic children is unacceptable so long as the Government , the Members of this house and the public service are paid such vast sums of money in unjustifiable increases. This is something which we have to face.
One only has to talk to people who have autistic children. They say that things are getting worse, that there is a complete lack of acknowledgment by the authorities of the real problems which parents and children have to face. There appears to be the belief that if one produces enough educational therapists, this problem will be resolved.
I gather, based on anecdotal evidence, that the problem is first manifest in very young children. In spite of that, it takes weeks, months and even years for the parent of a child who is suspected of being autistic even to get an appointment. That is the reality. One can create any number of graduates and pay the Government all this money, but it is useless if one cannot produce people to assess autistic or potentially autistic children. This increases the anxiety for parents. That is the first resort and the problem has, apparently, not been resolved.
I would genuinely like to hear the reason nothing has happened. It is apparently because the finances are not there. I do not believe that this is a good enough reason. This problem deserves both a medical and educational response for the children.
I would like the Minister of State to give us a target outlining what he intends to do in the immediate future and what prospects there are for change in concrete terms.