A Twerton councillor is campaigning for children on the autistic spectrum to be be diagnosed earlier and get the help they need.
Tim Ball says he knows of cases where parents have had to wait up to a decade for their child’s condition to be recognised, and early support is vital for individuals to live long, happy and productive lives.
While the tests for youngsters may be expensive, he said, the costs are a lot less in the long run.
Tim, who sits on Bath and North East Somerset Council and is a member of the Liberal Democrat group, said; “In childhood, people develop in different ways. Some are identified early with learning difficulties, others can’t concentrate.
“It’s normally at age three or four, when they are referred from schools or their GPs to mental health services or to consultants.”
He said conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are quite straightforward to identify and treat but added: “What they fail to pick up on quite often is Asperger’s, because it’s not as easily detectable.
“Children normally get diagnosed with Asperger’s around 12, 13, 14. Sometimes it’s not until the person is in their in their 40s.
“These children are being let down by society. It should be much easier for parents to access support. Parents should be made aware of their rights.”
Mr Ball added: “What I’m pushing for is early detection of Asperger’s and symptoms that aren’t ADHD so they have support into adolescence and adulthood – so they can live normal lives as tax-paying adults, rather than being dependent on the system.
“There’s resistance in doing early tests because of the costs. For a small investment they can save money in the future.
“A lot of parents haven’t got the knowledge to keep pushing. I don’t believe in labelling children, but if it gets access to support, sometimes you need to label.”
Tim said B&NES Council’s 2016 autism policy is now out of date and he will be calling on the administration to refresh it. He added: “The policy isn’t working. It needs to cover all aspects of how autism develops.
“I’m aware of multiple cases where parents have been waiting for 10 years for a diagnosis.
“My advice to parents is to keep pushing and asking questions, and get access to the support available. There’s always someone out there who knows more than you.”
Mum-of-two Debra Stratford-Stott waited around eight years for her daughter, Ella, who also has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, to be diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum.
She first suspected her daughter was different when she was just six years old, but said her school had insisted she was “just naughty”.
“They they thought there were problems at home and she was bringing them to school,” said Ms Stratford-Stott, who cares for Ella and also works for BUPA.
“When she in was in year six she was suspended – they said she had been aggressive. She’s never aggressive. I think she was frustrated.
“She struggled all through school with the change of teachers. Her education fell behind.”