Anger over cuts to speech therapy service for autistic children
THE family of a severely autistic six-year-old are angry that a service which helps him communicate has been cut by the NHS.
Notts Community Health say it will only provide speech and language therapy services for children with autism until the age of six.
'Written off': Dylan Scothern, of Netherfield, with mum Rachel. Dylan, six, suffers from severe autism.
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This means Dylan Scothern of Netherfield, who can only say a few words because of his condition, will no longer be seen by a therapist.
The therapist had previously been visiting his school to set targets for teaching staff on how his communication should improve.
Dylan's mother Rachel now fears her son will not progress and will never be able to communicate properly.
She said: "Basically they have written him off.
"I think he will be at a standstill, he can't move forward without this service.
"You can't expect the school to do this because they are dealing with so many other things."
Notts Community Health, which provides health services in the community outside the city, says it wants to focus on "early intervention" for younger autistic children.
In a letter to Mrs Scothern's MP Vernon Coaker, managing director Eleri de Gilbert said it faced an £11 million funding gap this year.
She said officials "had to make some tough decisions based on tough choices".
Mrs de Gilbert said: "Our decision has been based on available clinical evidence and in consultation with the commissioner of our services."
Gedling MP Mr Coaker has been lobbying the NHS on the family's behalf.
He said: "This is the human cost of the cuts that have been made and are being made.
"It simply is not acceptable that the most vulnerable pay the price.
"This is a young child whose needs were being met by the speech therapist and it is being taken away.
"It is cruel, it is wrong and it should be changed."
Children like Dylan, with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, have problems interacting and communicating.
Speech and language therapists carry out assessments and develop care packages which help parents and carers set communication targets for their child.
Notts Community Health is now only offering the service to youngsters aged five or younger. It has previously offered it to youngsters of all ages, but now wants to focus on younger children to help them when they start school.
Mrs de Gilbert's letter said autistic children's teachers and parents were the "most appropriate channel of therapy, as it is the carer who will hold most significance for the child".
She said Dylan's carers, including staff at William Booth Primary School in Sneinton, had been trained in techniques to help him communicate.
But Mrs Scothern, a teaching assistant, said they were not qualified to offer the same support the therapist provided.
The 38-year-old mother-of-four said: "For me this service was key to Dylan. I need to be able to help him because it is such an isolated world when you don't have speech."
A spokesperson for Notts Community Health (NCH) said the £11m funding gap this year represented 11% of its budget.
She said: "This was due to expenditure pressures from previous years, as well as this year, and as with all NHS providers, we received no increase in its income for 2010/11.
"All of our services have been reviewed in order to close this gap in funding, deliver efficiencies and improvements in productivity and Speech and Language Therapy is one of those services.
"NCH acknowledges that many difficult decisions have been made as part of this process."