Laois and Offaly families protesting outside HSE offices this morning for better autism services

Things have dis-improved in this region since the problems were first raised last year

Laois and Offaly families protesting outside HSE offices this morning for better autism services

Source: Laois and Offaly Families For Autism Facebook

Families from Laois and Offaly are protesting outside the HSE today, to express their discontent about the lack of autism services provided in the region.

Last year, the Laois Offaly Families For Autism association (LOFFA), published a report stating that the ratio of therapists to children in their area, was among the worst in the country.

It has since emerged that things have deteriorated with almost 1,000 school age children on a waiting list for up to two years, for occupational therapy.

Newstalk reporter Kieran Cuddihy, spoke to the families affected by this and speaking on the Breakfast Show, he revealed that all psychology services have been suspended in Laois and Offaly, which has resulted in the protests today.

One parent, Steph McGinn, has three children on the spectrum. She spends almost €1,000 per month on treatment for her children and she told Kieran that her eldest child is still waiting to receive psychology treatment, four years after he was initially diagnosed.

She was told to seek the services of the HSE School Age Going team of therapists, but she says that this service does not exist in her area.

"There is no school age going team. There's supposed to be a multi-disciplinary team where the kids should have access to a psychologist, OT, speech and physio. There's nobody that I can ring to get some help from. My two daughters have maybe 100 words between them and can't make sentences."

Mary Lowbridge has a son who attends courses for gifted children and studies at an advanced level, but due to the absence of vital services, his social skills are limited.

"I don't care if he's sweeping streets but the point is, he has potential. And yet, he can't hold a conversation and keep friends. He doesn't get invited to birthday parties. As a mother, I just want to see him happy."

The HSE have said that there is a national programme in place since 2014. The Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People has a targeted investment of €14m, some of which has been spent in Laois and Offaly.

They also admitted that there are no psychologists. They tried to advertise for the position but they received no interest.

Listen to the full report here: