More than 2,000 Lancashire children with suspected autism going undiagnosed

Thousands of Lancashire children with suspected autism could be going undiagnosed due to Covid-19 delays, new research reveals.

By Laura Longworth
Monday, 2nd November 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 2nd November 2020, 12:32 pm
Thousands of Lancashire children with suspected autism could be going undiagnosed due to Covid-19 delays, new research reveals.
Thousands of Lancashire children with suspected autism could be going undiagnosed due to Covid-19 delays, new research reveals.

Some 2,233 children aged 0 to nine are at risk of being un- or misdiagnosed due to the closure of face-to-face assessments during the pandemic, according to Autism Parenting Magazine. Of those children, 1,144 are boys and 1,089 are girls. This lifelong developmental disability affects how people communicate and interact with the world

Google searches for early signs of autism in babies and early signs of autism are up by 200% and 100% respectively, suggesting that parents are struggling to access professional advice and are therefore taking it upon themselves to come to a conclusion. In fact, wait times for appointments following the first referral are at an all-time high of more than 19 weeks, with experts warning they are likely to rise. The average wait time in 10 out of 25 English health trusts is 137 days, against a target of 91 days.

Mark Blakely, founder of Autism Parenting Magazine, said: “Parents of children with suspected autism often struggle to pinpoint signs that mean their child is not neurotypical, and without schools, teachers, friends and family to help parents during lockdowns, these children risk further delays to diagnosis. Often, it’s a lack of confidence and understanding of the signs parents are seeing which leads to delays in starting the diagnosis journey, but now they’re having to cope with the added pressure of appointment and referral meetings cancelled or postponed even when they do start the process.

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“Raising an autistic child means increased outgoings, for therapies, medication, equipment and support such as respite care, while often having to reduce working hours over a child’s lifetime. It’s a scary prospect for parents, even when they feel well supported and listened to in their concerns. Early diagnosis can save autistic children and their families a lot of anguish and heartache, as well as time and money in the long run, and we would ask the Government to prioritise reducing waiting times for these families in order to give them that.”

For advice and guidance, visit www.autism.org.uk