Ten SELB children languishing on psychologist’s waiting lists

Local children are waiting for an assessment

Local children are waiting for an assessment

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A total of ten children have been waiting longer than nine months to see an educational psychologist in the Southern Board Education Area, which includes the Dungannon District.

Hundreds of local children at local primary and post-primary schools need special psychological assessments to help with their education.

The data was revealed by the Department of Education at the Northern Ireland Assembly in response to a tabled question.

Currently, about 1,300 children in Northern Ireland are waiting to be assessed to find out if they have a learning disorder or developmental disability such as autism.

However, a local charity has described these figures as conservative.

Autism NI accused the executive of moving backwards rather than forwards in attempting to address the problem.

According to a 2014 health department report, the rate of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) among school age children has increased by 67% since 2010.

While on paper the average waiting time for an initial assessment is 13 weeks, in practice a growing number of families are having to wait up to 12 months before their child is assessed and diagnosed.

As some of these children require a “statement” from their health trust to receive extra help in school, families say their child’s health and education are suffering.

By law a child must be assessed and diagnosed before receiving a statement of special educational needs.

Issued by education and library boards, this statement outlines how a child’s special educational needs would be supported. As a legal document, children must receive the help that is detailed on the statement.

Legislation designed to ensure those affected are afforded the same entitlements as those with other disabilities was passed in 2011.