Tanya Wheat, a devoted mother from Perth, shared her story and state of despair. A broken public system has left her 10-year-old son, Christopher, on a 2 year waitlist for an Autism assessment. This delay has not only created financial strain for the family, but has also left Christopher without the necessary support and resources to thrive in school. Tanya’s experience sheds light on the widespread challenges faced by families seeking timely Autism assessments.
The Cry for Assistance
Last year, Tanya was forced to quit her job due to her son Christopher’s refusal to attend school. Because of this it put a significant strain on the family’s finances. Christopher’s school principal noticed behaviours consistent with Autism and suggested an assessment. Tanya acknowledged that her son exhibited symptoms of Autism, including sensory issues and difficulty regulating his emotions.
Despite Christopher’s struggles at school, Tanya highlighted the predicament of not being able to access extra assistance without an official Autism diagnosis. The lack of funding for school support further compounded their worries. Furthermore it left them feeling abandoned and overlooked by the health system.
The Lengthy Wait and Financial Constraints
Tanya received a referral for an Autism assessment at the Perth Children’s Hospital, but in December, she received a disheartening letter indicating that the waiting time exceeded 24 months. Financial constraints prevented the family from pursuing a private assessment, which can cost thousands of dollars. Living on a single income, Tanya expressed their inability to afford anything beyond basic necessities.
Our very own, Anita Aherne, the Founder and Director of Living on the Spectrum, the National Autism Directory has shed light on what we can do when facing a long wait for an Autism Diagnosis. In many parts of Australia, it’s not unusual to wait 12-18 months for a public assessment. No surprise that it is even longer in regional areas. Unfortunately, families without the means for private assessments often feel helpless. This delay hinders the timely provision of vital support and essential skills to children on the Autism spectrum.
“Every moment lost on a lengthy wait list is a missed opportunity to provide crucial support and empower children on the Autism spectrum. Let us bridge the gap and ensure timely assessments, for every child deserves the chance to thrive.
“Until lengthy waitlists can be addressed, we need to empower ourselves as parents and learn how to be proactive and seek support for our families”
Read more: Practical tips and resources for families awaiting an autism diagnosis – Interview with Anita Aherne
The Ongoing Struggles in Therapy and Support
Obtaining an Autism assessment and diagnosis is just the initial hurdle for families. Because of the wait, families face additional challenges in accessing therapy and support services. A shortage of skilled professionals and a lack of availability further compound the difficulties faced by families seeking appropriate care and Autism assessments for their children.
Tanya Wheat’s story sheds light on the hardships faced by families seeking timely Autism assessments and the subsequent access to support services. The lengthy waiting times, financial constraints, and shortages in therapy and support exacerbate the difficulties experienced by these families. It is crucial for policymakers and healthcare providers to prioritise and improve the assessment process. More importantly, improving the availability of support services, ensures that individuals on the Autism spectrum receive the timely assistance they deserve.