27 Mar 2007

NICCY calls for action to improve services for children and young people with Asperger Syndrome

THE Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Patricia Lewsley, today called for a vast improvement to services for children and young people with Asperger Syndrome.

In a report commissioned by NICCY from the University of Birmingham, children and young people with Asperger Syndrome, their parents and professionals involved in their care told researchers their concerns.

Ms Lewsley said she was shocked to learn about the experiences of children and young people, which included bullying from their peers and lack of understanding from teachers.

“It was evident from the findings that there is a lack of co-ordination of services between health, social services and education,” she said. “There are ongoing difficulties with waiting times for diagnosis; with in some cases waits of up to three years.

“The report also said that there is not enough support or information for young people and their families. Government policy and practice is not being consistently applied, resulting in a postcode lottery.”

Ms Lewsley said she was moved by the comments children and young people made to researchers. 

“When you read about children being hit because of their illness or being called ‘weirdo’ you can understand the despair they must feel,” she said. “But when you read that a young person believes they were singled out and ‘put down’ by a teacher you know that we need to support those children now.”

The Commissioner said she would be drawing the eight main recommendations to the attention of Government and the new education and health authorities immediately.

“Our recommendations encompass a wide range of changes that need to be made. Some of these affect the way services are delivered, such as making sure good practice is shared across Northern Ireland. Some of them urge the new health and education authorities to make sure they consider services for children with Asperger Syndrome when plans are developed.

“But today I want to remind all service providers, that time is ticking away for each and every child with Asperger Syndrome as they grow up and face the challenges highlighted in our report.

Notes for Editors

  • The "Try Living in Our World" - Young People with Asperger Syndrome: A Review of Needs and Services summary report is available to download here:
  • You can also download the full report and the young people's version here
  • You can find more information on the work of then Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People here on the web site