Accessing Disability Supports for Children in Ireland

I have just read some comments by the mother of autistic children here in Ireland saying that by claiming that autism is not a disorder, autistic advocates are going to get disability supports taken off her children and others like them.

This is simply not true.

I know autistic children who had access to OT, SLT, physiotherapy and psychologist support, without a diagnosis. They just needed a referral from their school and their GP, based on their perceived needs. In fact, these same children had their supports taken off them AFTER getting a diagnosis of autism, as they were then transferred to “autism specific” services, which currently have a waiting list of over two years.

Likewise, if your child needs to use a laptop in school, an OT will do an assessment to see if they qualify. No diagnosis needed. Same for supports needed during state exams. You don’t automatically get these supports just because you have an autism diagnosis. The criteria are stricter than that.

Same goes for access to an SNA (Special Needs Assistant) in school. The school has to submit a robust application stating why the child needs one. Diagnosis alone isn’t sufficient. And many children with SNAs don’t (yet?) have a diagnosis.

Also, if you are applying for DCA or carer’s allowance, you need to prove that your child has needs significantly greater than their peers. No specific mention of needing a diagnosis is made. Again, I know of children without any specific diagnosis whose parents have qualified for these allowances. And judging by how hard it is to qualify, having a diagnosis may make proving your case slightly easier but it is by no means enough just to have one.

Same goes for the Incapacitated Child Tax Allowance, which again isn’t based on any specific diagnosis but on the judgement of your GP on whether your child will ever earn an independent living.

Recognising the difficulties with accessing diagnosis, many Irish autism charities help children irrespective of whether or not they have an official diagnosis. That is not going to change. (Except for the fiasco that is AsIAm’s autism card which demands a diagnosis).

So, for those parents freaking out over whether autism is or isn’t a disability, it doesn’t actually make any difference. Here in Ireland at least. In either case, we are left fighting for whatever scraps we can get. But these scraps are handed out based on assessments of needs and not on any official diagnosis. So if your child is disabled, they are disabled. Whether or not they are also autistic. Nobody is saying they shouldn’t get services based on their needs.

And anyone arguing that we are saying otherwise either misunderstands our argument or is being disingenuous.


  1. So true about fighting for scraps. Many areas of England are tightening up the clinical definitions so as to restrict kids getting a diagnosis. Not on medical grounds but on purely cost saving grounds. A decent GP will try to organise things like counselling and physio without a diagnosis but the waiting lists are growing. In our area a panel of clinicians will assess for autism. But again waiting lists are growing. We only got a disability allowance after diagnosis. The stuff schools will provide support for is being hacked as well. So rather than improving things are getting worse.


    • Was just looking at documents relating to my kids recently. When my son got referred for assessment the waiting list was 8-9 months. By the time his sister was referred a year later the wait was over 2 years so we went private. And then after diagnosis they get put on intervention waiting list. Which is another two years at least. Unless there is a crisis eg literal suicide attempts. Then maybe you might get bumped up the list but still not get actual useful help. It’s a joke.


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