Today, I spent some time filling in forms to get some additional services for my son Joe, who has Asperger's Syndrome.
Through Hackney Family Back-Up, we can get various services, including a monthly Saturday afternoon club for kids with "challenging behaviour".
Sign him up for 'The Key' - Hackney's register for kids with disabilities and special needs - and he can get a leisure card giving him free access to swimming and other sports and leisure activities. And here's one that could prove very valuable - autism-friendly showings of kids' films at a cinema in Stratford. The volume is lower than in regular screenings (autistic kids often don't like loud noise), and if they want to get up, make noise and run around, no-one is going to tell them off. Which is good news for Joe, whose last visit to a cinema (pre-diagnosis) ended rather abruptly less than half way through the film.
All this is very welcome and helpful - as is the prospect of his school waiving the fees for Joe's attendance at After School Club, which he loves and which helps a great deal with his developing social skills.
But the actual core healthcare services that he needs are not so readily forthcoming. Hackney schools only get the attention of speech and language therapists for half of each term. The borough's Learning Trust employs far fewer autism specialists than it needs for around 40,000 school-aged kids (the last I heard, it was just four). And despite being prioritised at the time of his diagnosis in November, Joe will have to wait until April for Child Psychology. Underfunding of the Primary Care Trust means that there is no Child Psychology for under-11s in Hackney until April. Yes, you read that right.
This is particularly infuriating as Joe has proved himself very responsive when he gets attention and care that suits his special needs. He's a lovely young lad who just needs a bit of extra help and for society to recognise that not everyone sees the world in the same way.