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First ever Autism Plan

Health Minister, Mr. Simon Harris has confirmed the roll-out of a new autism plan this year.

This follows the publication by the Minister ofreports on the prevalence of autism in Ireland and a review of the services for people with autism.

The first report: “Estimating prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the Irish Population: A review of data sources and epidemiological studies,” is a research report produced by the Department of Health.

This study was requested by the Minister to support the direction of future policy decisions and autism proof our health services. The paper describes the complexity of the changing classification of autism over many decades and developments in relation to screening and diagnostic instruments for autism. While the prevalence of autism has increased in the last twenty years, the report concluded uncertainty remained about the true prevalence of autism globally.

The paper, drawing on a variety of sources, concluded that there was a robust case for estimating a prevalence rate of autism in children of 1-1.5% for the purposes of planning policy and services in Ireland.

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

The second report is entitled: “Review of the Irish Health Services for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders”. The Minister asked the HSE to review current services for autistic people and identify examples of good practise that could be replicated more widely in the health service.

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

The review identified key priorities for implementation by the HSE including;

  • The establishment of a Programme Board tasked with implementing the recommendations in the report.
  • Development of a Programme of Awareness Raising.
  • Guidance to clinicians and service development.

Speaking at the publication of the two reports, the Minister 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 in 2019. I know that the HSE are putting a lot of effort and planning into the improvement of Autism services and they have my full support in this. I am particularly pleased that autistic people will have direct input into the implementation of the recommendations of the HSE Review Report. Additionally, I also welcome the establishment of an implementation programme Board and Public Awareness Campaign relating to Autism.”

“The provision of an additional 100 therapy posts secured for Children’s Disability Services for which recruitment will commence in 2019, will increase the capacity of the HSE in meeting children’s needs both in relation to Autism assessments and subsequent service provision. Additionally, significant and further progress will be made in the co-ordination of existing children and young people disability services through the roll out of Children’s Disability Networks under the Progressing Disability Services policy.”
The reports are available on the Department of Health website.