Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong has called on Departments to help improve identification of autism earlier after a report showed its prevalence within young people here had grown.
The Department of Health’s survey, which looked at school age children in Northern Ireland, stated autism’s occurrence increased from 1.2 per cent in 2008/09 to 2.9 per cent in 2017/18.
There was also a significant difference between genders, with males almost four times more likely to be identified with autism than females.
“This report confirms an increase in the number of children being diagnosed with autism but sadly many of those with it are not having their condition identified until they are around 13-years-old,” said Ms Armstrong.
“I worked with parents in 2016 when a petition with over 8,500 signatures asked the then Health and Education Ministers to invest to reduce assessment waiting times. While waiting times have reduced, it is still not good enough. Children should not have to wait until they have hit their teens before being diagnosed and to only then have access to appropriate health and education support.
“Early intervention can have a vast positive impact for people with autism. This report confirms yet again investment in early years and effective cross-departmental working between Health and Education is needed.
“Earlier this week Chris Lyttle MLA and I heard the Education Authority’s proposals for early years and special education needs. Some of the proposals are positive but without funding commitments it is unlikely all of the proposals to improve the system will be implemented.”