Over two years waiting time for diagnosis of 'developmental disabilities' in Flanders

Over two years waiting time for diagnosis of 'developmental disabilities' in Flanders
Young children playing sports. Credit: Belga

The waiting times for children and young people to be diagnosed with developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or ADHD in Flanders have been rising in recent years and are now standing at more than two years.

There are around 160 subsidised and specialised diagnostic centres (COS) in the region, which officially diagnose developmental disorders and counsel children with this diagnosis. Waiting times for their services are now exceeding two years, resulting in young people being left longer and longer to be diagnosed with these disorders, Flemish MP Katja Verheyen (N-VA), who requested the figures, warned.

"The figures available are hardly reassuring," she noted, pointing to the waiting times at the specialised centres in West Flanders and East Flanders, which have increased by five months each between 2020 and 2021, to 1 year and 7 months and 2 years and 7 months, respectively.

More and more parents are seeking help from private practices as a timely diagnosis is important because it gives children and young people quicker access to appropriate care and assistance.

In Flanders, an estimated 5% of children of primary school age have ADHD, while one person in 150 has some form of autism, which is more common in boys than girls. However, researchers suspect that this could be due to the fact that it is less reported in girls, as they are said to be more easily able to camouflage their autism.

Plan on table

Although the figures for 2022 are not yet known, Verheyen fears that a similar trend can be expected, arguing that it is time to tackle the fragmentation of supply and keep repeat diagnoses to a bare minimum in order to reduce waiting lists and improve care for vulnerable young people.

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Verheyen also noted that, since February last year, a new proposal was put forward in Flanders to thoroughly reform and streamline the diagnoses for children and young people in Flanders. The policy aims to facilitate a transparent and accessible diagnostics for children and young people of all ages and with any suspected problem.

"I, therefore, call on Health Minister Hilde Crevits and her administration to speed up the implementation of the plan. Every day that the plan is delayed is a day that waiting lists continue to grow and vulnerable young people do not get the help they deserve," she concluded.

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