Many parents waiting a year or more for help with their disabled child

Almost a third of parents who have children with special needs or disabilities have waited more than two years for an assessment.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 12:33 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th May 2019, 11:14 am
Many parents waiting a year or more for help with their disabled child

Sheffield Parent Carer Forum asked more than 700 families how long it took to get their child’s needs assessed.

Almost three quarters had waited more than six months, over half had waited more than a year, 30 per cent had waited more than two years and 17 per cent had waited in excess of three years.

The Forum surveyed families with children and young people aged up to 25 with special educational needs or disabilities for its report called The State of Sheffield.

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One parent said: “My daughter struggled all throughout primary school with no support and we even had to pay for assessment ourselves as the school wouldn’t listen to us.

“Both my daughters came out as severely dyslexic with above average IQs. The school had them down as below average ability. It simply isn’t fair how our dyslexic children are treated.”

Another parent said: “The school head teacher initially told me it was bad parenting and refused to send letter to GP to request a referral to Ryegate Children’s Centre.”

Families who reported prompt access to assessments – six months or less – were significantly less likely to report that they were struggling or not coping.

They were also more likely to say that their child’s educational provision was meeting their needs.

The report says: “Most conditions can only be diagnosed by a health professional. Parents told us that the biggest barriers to accessing health services for their child with SEND were long waiting lists (75 per cent), unclear referral routes (49 per cent) and a lack of information about health services (46 per cent).

“A diagnosis is often essential for accessing services. However, it tells us very little about how a disability affects an individual in their everyday life. We found that children with a wide range of diagnoses often have very similar needs.”

The report found it was very common for children to have difficulties in more than one area.

90 per cent of children had problems with social interaction

86 per cent struggled with sensory processing difficulties

83 per cent displayed challenging behaviour

81 per cent had sleep issues

76 per cent were affected by anxiety and/or depression.

The report adds: “Commissioning decisions are usually driven by diagnosis rates rather than needs. This can make it difficult for children who do not have a diagnosis, or who do not meet the threshold for the service that caters for their particular disability, to get the support they need.”

The full report can be read here: publications