Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (709)

David Stanton


709. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Health if he recognises autism as a specific condition which requires specific supports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8404/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Autism is a disability that affects the normal development of the brain in areas of social interaction and communication. It is described as a spectrum disorder that can have a varied presentation of characteristics ranging from mild to severe. The first signs of autism may appear as developmental delay before the age of 3. Many individuals with autism due to the complexity of their presentation may have a primary diagnosis of intellectual disability or mental health co-morbidity.

As the Deputy will be aware, current Government policy advocates a mainstreaming approach to the provision of services and supports for people with disabilities including those with autism, whereby people with disabilities have access to the same services as the general population, and in addition receive the appropriate supports and interventions to address individual needs.

The HSE completed a review of the autism services provided by the health sector for both children and adults with autism in 2012. Its National Review of Autism Services: Past, Present and Way Forward Report, reviews and identifies appropriate pathways of care for individuals with autism, given the existing diverse system of delivering services and varied approaches across the health sector. It recommends a move to a more consistent model of service delivery in line with the Government’s mainstreaming policy of equal access for people with a disability to the appropriate service for their individual needs. It also recommends a reconfiguration of existing service provision, with access at the appropriate level, depending on need, through the primary care system, school age teams, and specialist intervention services as appropriate. It endorses the reorganisation of services for children and young people under the Progressing Disabilities Services for Children and Young People (0-18s) Programme.

This Programme, established since 2010, aims to achieve a national unified approach to delivering disability health services, so that there is a clear pathway for all children to the services they need regardless of where they live, what school they go to or the nature of their disability or developmental delay. The Programme is rolling out at national, regional and local level and involves representatives from the health and education sectors, statutory and non-statutory service providers and parents working together to see how current services can best be re-organised. Implementation of the Programme will have a positive impact on the provision of clinical services for all children, including those with autism, who require access to health related supports.

The National Review of Autism Services Report will be implemented, within existing resources and taking account of the need for greater efficiency and effectiveness in the current climate, and within the context of parallel initiatives including the Value for Money and Policy Review of Disability Services published in July 2012 and the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People (0-18) Programme.