'It's cruel' - Parents paying €2,500 a month to treat autistic sons privately

Rebecca McDermott's two sons were diagnosed as being on the spectrum
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.49 12 Jan 2023

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'It's cruel' - Parents paying...

'It's cruel' - Parents paying €2,500 a month to treat autistic sons privately

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.49 12 Jan 2023

Share this article

A mother who is paying €2,500 a month to access treatment for her autistic sons has said it is "cruel" the public system can't help.

Rebecca McDermott's two sons, George and Jack, have both been diagnosed as being on the spectrum.

She told Lunchtime Live she had to go private in other to get either of them seen.


"In my older son's case - George - he was two years waiting and we were only just before Christmas offered a home visit to do the assessment of need," she said.

"That would have been two years of wasted time for George - he wasn't speaking or communicating or anything like that.

"So, he was actually diagnosed privately with moderate autism, and also speech and language delays.

"Those two years would have been a critical period of time where he was missing any kind of therapies or intervention... so it [would have] been detrimental to him."

'What's the next wait time?'

Rebecca said her younger son, Jack, was recently diagnosed following a cancellation.

"The wait lists, privately, are now so long that the majority of places in Dublin were either like, 'We'll speak to you in six to nine months' or they just were not taking anyone on their wait lists," she said.

"We ended up having to travel to Cork - we got a cancellation - so we travelled to Cork to get the youngest diagnosed.


"It just seems a bit crazy to be honest with you, but that's what we did - needs must."

She said the wait list to be diagnosed is just the beginning.

"Once they've said there is a need, and that's the assessment, what's the next wait time to get diagnosed? And again, what's the wait time for the child to actually receive any services?"

€2,500 a month

She explained one assessment cost €1,700 and the most recent was €1,4000.

"Now for private therapies - home tuition and all the different private therapies - we're paying €2,500 a month ourselves," she said.

"We're getting absolutely nothing otherwise.

"As you can imagine there's great sacrifices on our end, but it's our child's wellbeing... so we're not going to cut back on that".

Rebecca said they have been offered no support services.

"It's a minefield knowing what to do and where to go.

"There's not really much help or support, even when your child is diagnosed.


"I found it very difficult to navigate what should I be doing, what shouldn't I be doing; where do you go, what are you entitled to?

"You end up having to go to these support groups, like Autism Mummy, that's where you get your source of information - not from the professionals."

"If you can't pay, what do you do? How are you supposed to help your child?

"How are you supposed to make sure your child is getting the best out of themselves and developing?

"You just sit there and wait, looking in pain at your child; I just think it's cruel what's happening," she added.

It comes as new figures released to Newstalk show the HSE has failed to assess almost 3,500 children for special needs within the six-month timeframe set down by law.

An 'assessment of need' allows children to be diagnosed with a disability - such as autism - so they can access the care they need.

Under the Disability Act, the HSE is supposed to complete the assessments within six months.

Main image: Rebecca McDermott's two sons, George and Jack, who have been diagnosed with autism. Picture: Supplied

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