Education officials downgrade autism diagnosis to avoid paying for extra support

Henry Thomson, the six-year-old son of Channel 4 news reader Alex Thomson and his partner Sarah Spiller, was diagnosed with autism in 2006 by a paediatrician at the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Essex. But when the family asked their local authority (LEA) to re-assess Henry to find out what additional help at school he might need, the LEA refused, and the family were told that the paediatrician had withdrawn her initial diagnosis of autism.

After a subsequent official inquiry by the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, Mr Thomson said that they received a letter from the hospital's chief executive saying the paediatrician admitted she had felt compelled to downgrade the diagnosis of autism after pressure from local education officials. How often is this happening around the country?

Alex Thomson said he had ‘gone public’ to highlight the clear conflict of interest that he believed had created this situation. He called for an independent body to be set up, as he felt his case had proved the system was open to abuse.

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First Published in July /2009

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