Raised awareness from parents around autism
“There is a lot more awareness surrounding autism these days compared to the way things were going back years.” That's according to Aisling Doyle, Project Administrator for the Autism Assessment Centre Ireland.
Autism Assessment Centre Ireland is a service catered towards families in need of an autism assessment for a child. The clinic offers assessments for children aged between 3-17.
This kind of service is needed more now than it ever has been, as figures published this year by the Department of Health reveal that 14,000 children between the ages of four and 15 have an autism diagnosis - around 4.7 per cent of the school population.
This is four times higher than the figure of just 1.2 per cent 10 years ago.
Aisling said: “At the moment, families are a lot more aware of what to look out for. It’s great to see the heightened awareness and that parents are really in tune with their child’s behaviours and development so that’s a really positive thing to see.”
If you are seeking an assessment, there are a number of different routes you can take to get results for your child. There is no cost going through a public referral system - but you could be waiting up to four years for an assessment.
“Early intervention is really important and that’s why it is really important for the children to be diagnosed when they are younger so that they can start their possible therapy sessions, the schools can begin to help, and I think it just really sets them up with the extra support that they need as they move up through their education into getting jobs as adults and other aspects of life.”
“We try to dedicate the time to the public HSE side of things and basically what we want to put forward is that we really understand the stress that the families must be going through. There are millions of things to ask but they don’t even know the right questions. We want to provide that information in a comfortable environment.”
Private assessments that are offered are much quicker, but the full autism assessment costs €1,400.
When asked about the assessment process, Aisling explained: “I personally work closely with the families and liaise with the HSE and other services that we might receive referrals from.”
Aisling is the first person a client would speak to when booking an assessment for their child.
“Our aim is just to help families whether there’s a diagnosis or not just to give them that support and guidance going forward. ASD is autism spectrum disorder and that would be mainly what we would be assessing for in the clinic. It’s a developmental difference in the brain.
“Our assessments are mostly broken into two parts; the first part is the parent’s interview with one of our clinicians. This interview would focus on the child’s development and behaviour when they’re in the ages of 3-5.
“Another part is an in-person observation session with the child this would involve the child being in our clinic with our psychologist and another clinician. This session focuses on play and communication there would be a variety of age-appropriate games and conversation pieces throughout the assessment.
Background information gathered from documents like a developmental history form, previous assessment reports and information from parents during intake is included during the assessment. A written report from school personnel who know the child well is also requested.
Aisling added: “That comfortable and welcoming environment is something that we try to portray from start to finish with everything from the initial call with me where I explain the process to meeting the clinicians. We try to put families and children at ease from the beginning.”
For further information or to seek an assessment, see www.autismassessmentcentre.ie.