New research conducted by Autism Parenting Magazine has shown that over 128,000 children risk being 'forgotten' as COVID-19 lockdowns cause delays in diagnosis.
The research revealed that a large number of potentially-autistic children could be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed due to the restrictions during the previous six months, with experts warning that waiting times for key appointments are set to rise as vital services are not operational during the pandemic. It was also revealed that, due to the closures and subsequent limited resources, parents are finding it harder to spot telltale signs of autism in their children and that, when they do, they find it more difficult to access diagnostic routes.
In 2019, the NHS released disturbing figures that suggested some patients thought to have autism had waited more than 19 weeks for their first mental health appointments. The average wait time in 40% of UK health trusts was 137 days, far higher than the established target of 91 days. The limitations that have been placed on healthcare services due to COVID-19 restrictions are likely to cause this number to rise even higher.
According to data released by search engine Google, searches for 'early signs of autism' were up by 100% since April this year. The number of people searching the term 'early signs of autism in babies' was 200% higher in the same time span.
Commenting on the research, the founder of Autism Parenting Magazine Mark Blakely said: "Parents of children with suspected autism often struggle to pinpoint signs that mean their child is not neurotypical, and without schools, teachers, friends and family to help parents during lockdowns, these children risk further delays to diagnosis. Now they’re having to cope with the added pressure of appointment and referral meetings cancelled or postponed even when they do start the process."
"Early diagnosis can save autistic children and their families a lot of anguish and heartache, as well as time and money in the long run, and we would ask the Government to prioritise reducing waiting times for these families in order to give them that,” he added.
Jobskin® continues to support people with autism and their families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For advice, support and information about the ways we can help, please browse our website or get in touch with a member of our team.