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[January 11, 2006]
Parents say autism is an issue across the globe
(Newsletter Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)ULSTER parents campaigning for better services for children living with autism say the lack of Government-funded support in the Province mirrors the situation in Australia and parts of America.
Campaigners have learned that Australia is apparently experiencing a surge in autism spectrum disorders, where a ten-fold rise in diagnoses have been made in the past decade.
In the USA, the epidemic recently brought a mass rally to the streets of Washington DC in protest at government failure to address perceived links between use of vaccines containing mercury and autism.
In Australia, parents of autistic children forced to pay privately for early intervention treatment and applied behavioural analysis (ABA) have drawn attention to the financial burden.
Some have had to re-mortgage or sell properties to pay treatment or therapy bills.
Ulster campaigner Gordon McKenzie said the situation in Northern Ireland is no different.
While the Western Education and Library Board has provided financial assistance to his child for ABA, the true cost to his family stands at around pounds 36,000 each year.
Campaigners in Ulster want a proper strategy, which will link health, education and children's services to help tackle and properly fund the needs of autistic children.
Government and health service help is needed specifically, because a number of treatments and therapies have benefited and improved the lives of autistic children across the globe.
"This money is well-used, it is not lost and not wasted and there are proven benefits,'' Mr McKenzie said.
"It is claimed that 39 per cent of children on the ABA programme after two years will be indistinguishable from their peers."
His wife, Margaret, said their four-year-old son was diagnosed aged two, but received only one block of speech and language therapy.
She said 10 hours of speech therapy is not enough if problems are profound.
"Ideally, we want continuous services - it should be supplied on a needs basis, rather than a piece-meal offer,'' Mrs McKenzie said.
Some parents are also waiting for occupational therapy for four years, she said.
"We should not have to fight for children's basic human rights. We are not asking for luxuries, we are asking for essential services,'' she said.
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