Dear Frontline readers,
There’s medical expertise about autism and there’s parental expertise. Parental expertise is hard-won. It’s earned through grief, struggle and hope. I know at first hand, watching my autistic son grow up.
When the diagnosis is first made, the initial reaction may be an overwhelming sense of loss. Your child’s expectation of a normal future seems irrevocably constrained, and the realisation is infinitely painful because all seemed well in the first year to 18 months of their life.
But parents come to terms with the initial shock and immediately want to know as much about this condition as possible. They quickly learn that the Autism Spectrum Disorder is exactly that – a Spectrum that ranges from being so severe that longterm care is the only option, to being so mild that it is not picked up until some children are in their 20’s.
What is absolutely essential is early diagnosis and early intervention, and despite much progress made in this area, so much more remains to be done. What all parents want for their child is for them to reach their full potential and it is our duty as professionals, and my duty as Minister for Health, to ensure as far as I can that the services are put in place to allow this to happen.
Right now, we find ourselves in the worst financial crisis to hit the nation in its history. Our health service has sustained a €2.5 billion cut to its budget over the past 3 years. We must strive to do more with less.
Notwithstanding that, €1 million extra is available this year for the early detection and treatment of autism and I’ve guaranteed the same for the following 2 years.
A report I commissioned into the delivery of care in services to children with autism has just landed on my desk. It requires careful consideration before action. But what’s immediately clear is that some areas in our country have no service, whilst others have a Rolls Royce service. Not good enough. We may not be able to afford a Rolls Royce service everywhere, but we must have a fair and equitable distribution of service for all our children.
As a further measure of my commitment to autism I have made it an EU priority during the Irish Presidency in 2013.
I want to assure all people with autism and their parents of this government’s commitment to ensuring best outcomes for them.
If you’re the parents of young children just recently diagnosed with autism, you may believe the future looks bleak.
But let no one set a limit on your child’s horizon. There will be better times ahead.