Without a Specialist Knowledge, Diagnosis of Autism Is Hit-and-Miss; Father of Asperger's Syndrome Sufferer Criticises Support on Offer

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 26, 2009 | Go to article overview

Without a Specialist Knowledge, Diagnosis of Autism Is Hit-and-Miss; Father of Asperger's Syndrome Sufferer Criticises Support on Offer


Byline: Madeleine Brindley

CHILDREN with autism could be missing out on vital help and service because their parents are given little support, a father has claimed.

Dr Ian Greenway said too many parents are facing the twin challenge of caring for their autistic child and having to discover what services and support are available to help them on their own.

And he said that many people still believe the Rainman stereotype that everyone diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder are gifted.

His comments come as the National Assembly's all-party party group on autism has heard appeals for NHS staff to have more awareness about autism and its impact.

Dr Greenway, whose 17-year-old son Harry has Asperger's syndrome, said: "When parents of young children have a diagnosis of autism they need support.

"A lot of parents will struggle to know where to turn, what services they need and which ones will be most appropriate for their child.

"They will struggle to know what they are supposed to be doing, how to handle certain difficulties with their child.

"That means that a lot of children may miss out on things for a long time simply because their parents don't know who to turn to.

"There needs to be something there for parents so they know which way to go."

Dr Greenway, a consultant anaesthetist at the Royal Gwent Hospital, in Newport, also said there are a lack of services in Cardiff - his family live in the capital - following the retirement of an autism specialist.

"There is no recognised specialist autism diagnostic service in Cardiff, which I personally find ridiculous, especially as we have plenty of services for children who are not suffering from autism.

"The way the system works is that you need an autism diagnosis to get anywhere with services. The main aspect of education in the past in terms of getting anything has been through the statementing process.

"That's difficult anyway but it's pretty impossible to get anywhere with the education authorities if you don't have a diagnosis in the first place.

"Unless you have someone with a special knowledge of autism, diagnosis will be hit and miss - generic paediatricians are not specialists in autism."

Dr Greenway's son Harry was seven when he was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and has undergone speech therapy and been treated by the children and adolescent mental health services for depression.

"Harry is very bright in terms of academic achievement but as a young person he still faces huge social difficulties," he said.

"Although he has achieved academically - he did his GCSEs last year and got As and A stars - people like him have difficulties holding down jobs. …

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