Skip to main content

The Good Schools Guide Blog

How do you reduce the costs resulting from the rising rate of autism diagnoses? Stop diagnosing it, stupid.

You couldn’t make it up, but it seems that this is exactly what is underway.

In one of the most spectacular attempts at shifting goalposts we have seen, cash-strapped councils are trying to avoid new autism diagnoses, and their associated costs, by changing the criteria under which children can be diagnosed. In a move to balance the books, they want to restrict the diagnosis to those children who also have co-existing conditions only.

Aim to reduce numbers diagnosed with autism

The TES newspaper has seen minutes from a board meeting at the South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust, which suggested that diagnostic criteria should be reviewed in order ‘to reduce the number of children and young people who are able to access a full diagnostic assessment from the Trust, and will require extensive engagement to stimulate existing resources across social care and education services’.

The NHS commissioners have discussed restricting autism diagnoses only to those children who have a co-existing condition such as depression or ADHD.

Children paying a dreadful price in assaults and low self-esteem

One commentator said this was already practice in other parts of the country. In her area, she said, ‘only the more severe cases of classic autism, and autism with comorbidities, are being diagnosed. We now have children working through secondary school, without a diagnosis, or deliberately underdiagnosed with dyspraxia. They are paying a dreadful price in assaults, low self-esteem, friendlessness and some also have intellectual impediments so are failing grades too. It really does affect safeguarding of children dreadfully, because of the injuries, exclusions and bullying by other children.’

We see this in practice too; in a number of cases dealt with by the GSG’s SEN team, the children have reached the door of a psychiatric hospital before local authorities could be persuaded to take any steps towards an autism assessment.

It’s a further blow to parents who already face a tremendous battle to get their child assessed. School heads are equally alarmed about managing these children without the additional resources a diagnosis can bring.

Cut the cloth by refusing assessments

Meanwhile figures released this week by the DfE confirmed our suspicions from what we’ve heard anecdotally that the number of children refused assessments for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) are rising dramatically. According to the DfE, almost 15,000 requests were refused in 2016, a 35% increase on the previous year.

And foot-dragging remains the modus operandi to prevent children from getting the support they need – just 55% of EHCPs were issued last year within the legally required 20 week time period from the point of request.

Legally or morally right?

We’d like to know how any decent human being sees depriving our most fragile children of necessary support as the best way out of a financial tight spot?

And we’d like to know how such moves can be legal, when the SEN Code of Practice requires local authorities to identify all the children and young people in their area who have special needs or a disability?

by

Related articles


  • Special Needs introduction

    Some special needs are easy to spot, others are only determined once a child has experienced considerable difficulties, frustrations or social and emotional problems.  Over the years, diagnosis of and provision for SEN have improved, but both can still be a minefield. Identifying different kinds of special educational needs Few children fit a condition perfectly – if they do, we tend to say they are a ‘classic’ case. Most will not be straightforward: perhaps a dyslexic with dyspraxia and a touch of ADD, or a child with ASD who also has Down’s syndrome. Just as special needs are hard to…

  • Why choose a special school?

    Like their mainstream counterparts, special schools must teach the national curriculum and use its assessment procedures, and they have broadly the same duties and responsibilities to children in their care as mainstream schools. An Educational Health and Care (EHC) plan is invariably required to get a place in a special school.

  • ASD - asperger's syndrome and autism

    With grateful thanks to the National Autistic Society for their help in compiling this article. All people with autistic spectrum difficulties (ASD) have some degree of social and communication difficulties. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability. Some people have accompanying learning disabilities, others have average or above-average intelligence.

  • Gaming and autism

    Autism and gaming tends to go together like fish and chips. How do you manage the obsessions, and protect a child with autism from online dangers?

  • Pathological Demand Avoidance

    Children with  PDA have an anxiety-driven need to be in control, and will go to extreme lengths to avoid everyday demands. They can appear charming on the surface, but struggle with the subtleties of social interaction.


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark
 

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

Newsletter

The Good Schools Guide Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

Stand by for some myth-busting from our SEN consultants

 


Just published - The Good Schools Guide 21st edition - 1200 schools fully reviewed and updated. Buy now