Mother hits out at HSE after waiting decades for autism diagnosis

By Laura Lyne

A MOTHER whose 40-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism two years ago has told parents of children with autism to “fight” for their children’s services, after the Tallaght Parents Autism Support Group highlighted the need for services in The Echo last week.

Rita Byrne’s daughter Hazel, who lives with her mother in their home in Fettercairn, was only diagnosed with autism two years ago after returning to services in Cheeverstown.

Rita and Hazel Byrne 01

Hazel, who has four brothers and four sisters, has been cared for by her mother Rita (65) her entire life.

Rita told The Echo that she believes that both her and Hazel’s lives would have been different if Hazel had been diagnosed earlier.

Speaking to The Echo, Rita said: “Hazel was diagnosed with autism two years ago, after attending Cheeverstown services for 24 years.

“I always knew something was different about Hazel. I’d bring her to clinics when she was about a year-and-a-half old, and she could never ask for anything, she would just point. They would tell me to make her ask for things, but she just couldn’t.

“She has always had issues with crowds, loud noises, but autism never really entered my head. It just never came up that autism could possibly be her main diagnosis.

“When she was four, she started to attend school in St Paul’s but her teacher knew that it didn’t suit her and we took her to Our Lady’s Hospital and she began attending St Joseph’s.

“I never had any help. There was never any instructions on how to handle Hazel’s autism. There are no services available to her locally, we’d have to travel.

“The HSE is a total waste, they did nothing for her. A large amount of children in this country have autism, and the HSE are not recognising them. Everything seems to be pushed through to another person.

“The government are not funding for it. Nothing was diagnosed. For a lot of parents, their children will get aggressive. When Hazel is annoyed or frustrated she does lash out.

“My grandchildren can’t come to see me, I can’t plan to go away overnight. A lot of people with autism don’t like change – you have to build them up to it. I don’t get a break. As a parent, you’re on your own. Nobody seems to give a damn.

“I’d say to any parent with young children that have autism now, to argue their case for them. You have to fight for them, because nobody else is going to.

“I’m sure if Hazel had been diagnosed and we had known about this years ago, things would be different for us today.”

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