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11.56 5 Dec 2018


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A new autism plan is to be rolled out next year, the Government has confirmed.

Health Minister Simon Harris has published two reports on the prevalence of autism in Ireland, and a review of the services for people with autism.

The first report was requested by Minister Harris, to support the direction of future policy and to autism-proof health services.

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It concluded that there is still uncertainty over the true prevalence of autism globally.

It found there is a robust case for estimating a rate of autism in children of 1-1.5% for the purposes of planning policy in Ireland.

This is similar to the most recent reported rates in countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Italy, UK, Italy, USA, Canada and Australia.

While in the second report, the minister asked the Heath Service Executive (HSE) to review current services for autistic people - and identify examples of good practice that can be replicated wider in the health service.

The Working Group, chaired by Tony Canavan, included an extensive public consultation process.

It identified key priorities for implementation - including the establishment of a programme board tasked with implementing the recommendations, development of an awareness raising progamme and guidance to clinicians.

Recommendations

The review made 10 recommendations - among them was that a model of care and clinical pathway for those with autism should be developed.

Each of these should identify a lead manager who will work with key stakeholders - while a national oversight group should also be established to ensure consistency of approach.

It added that service users need easy access to various services where they can move in and out, depending on their needs.

"The belief that service users 'belong' to a particular service needs to end.

"Having needs in one particular domain does not mean that other needs will never emerge.

"Primary care services and more specialist services should provide shared care/services dependent on the unique needs of the service user", the report said.

This review also found that healthcare and other professionals need to improve their competencies to work with individuals with autism.

It said that additional training for family members should also be available.

And that the HSE should consider supporting research into autism, in partnership with the relevant universities.

"Part of an overall autism plan"

Speaking as the two reports were published, Minister Harris said: "I have now asked the HSE to proceed with the implementation of the recommendations in the report.

"This commitment will be reflected in the HSE National Service Plan for 2019 and will form part of an overall autism plan to be published next year."

"“Improving services includes increasing knowledge and changing attitudes from how we autism-proof our health services to the language we use to discuss autism.

"As we see a generation of young people age out of our school system and into adulthood, and as more and more adults seek to access diagnosis we must ensure our adult services become truly inclusive, accessible and equitable."

He added that recruitment for an additional 100 therapy posts secured for Children's Disability Services will begin in 2019.

The reports are available here


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