A mother of twins diagnosed with autism says her family is considering leaving Ireland after the HSE said she would be waiting almost three years for early intervention treatment.
Aqueline Ercolani, who lives in Castleknock, Dublin, was forced to use her savings to pay for the private healthcare of her three-year-old twins, Leonardo and Victoria.
Although she went private, she still faced waiting lists of up to six months.
She feared the lack of available therapies would have lasting consequences for her children and traveled to her native Brazil last month, where she was immediately able to access similar services at a much lower cost.
Ms Ercolani received a letter from the HSE in December 2020 telling her that her children had been accepted onto the waiting list for early intervention treatment, which at the time was between 28 and 30 months.
“This is subject to change due to the Covid-19 emergency and its impact on our service resources,” the letter adds.
More than a year later, she still does not know when her children will be able to receive the therapies.
Research shows that early autism diagnosis and interventions can have long-term positive effects on symptoms.
“I pay privately and traveled to Brazil alone with my children because I’m desperate,” Ms Ercolani told the Herald.
“We have lived in Ireland for 10 years and have three Irish children.
“We were attracted by the idea of coming here to start a family and employment opportunities, but we were unaware of the poor health services until we became parents of children with special needs. additional.
“For me, it’s frustrating. I pay taxes, there’s a population of five million and yet I’m told my children won’t be able to get treatment for three years.
“What is going on?”
She said her experience of health services was “completely different” when Victoria was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect.
“I was kissed, they said, ‘Don’t worry because there’s a team that’s going to get you through this,'” she said.
“Everything went well; she had surgery and I had great support, but with autism it’s not the same.”
Their GP referred the twins to the HSE’s Early Intervention Team, who contacted Ms Ercolani in December 2020 to say it would be 2023 before the children had access to early intervention.
She then sought private treatment, but had to wait six months and paid €1,500 to get an official diagnosis for Leonardo. In Italy, where her husband Luca is from, she paid just €200 to get similar treatment for Victoria.
“Why in Ireland is everything so expensive? ” she asked.
“Why is there a shortage of occupational therapists and speech therapists available?
“I plan to leave with all my family to move to Italy. I have to leave because I will not be negligent as a mother.
“We have built a life in Ireland and bought a house, but I think we may have to move on.
“You might be attracted to come here and work at places like Facebook or Google, but your son or daughter will have to wait three years for treatment,” she added.
An HSE spokesperson said the implementation of the Progressing Disability Services for Children and Young People program means that services are now based on the needs of the child rather than their diagnosis.