Vicki Reedman knows only too well the battle parents are facing to unlock crucial support for their children.
The Leeds mother had been fighting for her six-year-old son to be assessed for three years before she was finally issued a referral to Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust’s (LCH) autism team in June.
Lucas, who was non-verbal until the age of four-and-a-half, has fallen behind his peers and has even been held back a year in school.
Ms Reedman, who lives in Bramley, claims her son was even excluded for behaviour she puts down to developmental disorder autism last year.
“Who knows the impact it’s had on Lucas,” she told The Yorkshire Post.
“How can you say it couldn’t have helped him?
“We never had that help at the most crucial time when he was being held back.”
The youngster has awareness issues, poor understanding, struggles with eye contact and has a need for routine.
She first noticed Lucas was having issues aged three but feels his school has seen him as a “naughty child”.
She added: “Parents shouldn’t have to fight for this, but everything is a fight when you’ve got a child with a mental health disability just because there’s nothing out as there’s never any funding – that’s what we always get told.”
Ms Reedman was finally invited to see autism specialists and the Leeds trust claims, through “working more efficiently” and recruiting new staff, it is on track to meet national targets by March 2017.
Earlier this year the Leeds trust pledged to bring waiting times down in line with NICE guidance by December.
But new figures show that since December 2015 the waiting list has grown from 140 cases to 191 in June, while the average wait was still more than twice the target time in March.
The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this year that just five Leeds children were assessed by the NHS from July until mid December – no new cases were opened by the NHS in Leeds in August or October.
Tim Nicholls, policy manager at the National Autistic Society, said: “An autism diagnosis can be lifechanging.
“It can explain years of feeling different and help unlock professional advice and support.”
He continued: “Long waits can be devastating – it can put a huge strain on already vulnerable families and mean children go through school without the right support in place, which can affect their long-term prospects.”