Fight to gain mental health support for our disabled son

The family of a boy with autism and learning difficulties is hoping their battle to get appropriate mental health support will help raise awareness for others in a similar situation.

Theo Hancock. Photo contributed.
Theo Hancock. Photo contributed.

Ten-year-old Theo Hancock, from Pagham, has nervous ticks and compulsive behaviours that are now limiting his ability to do activities he once enjoyed, cope at school and sleep.

His mum, Charlotte, said she and Theo’s dad, Sam, had resorted to sitting in A&E to get a referral by CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) after a year of pushing for their son to be assessed for possible anxiety.

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She said: “They’ve got a body that helps with mental health problems and one for learning difficulties but not one that does the two.

“Because Theo’s needs are both, they have to send him in to an assessment for funding out of area.”

While the family wait for funding, Theo’s behaviours have worsened and Charlotte said she was worried that her son was missing out on ‘any joy in life’ as he used to like swimming and playing and now did neither.

She said she was concerned that if the root cause of his problems was not treated now, it would mean he needed more help later in life.

She added: “It’s not CAMHS’ fault because they’re not funded to a certain point but what happens to children who don’t fit into a certain category?

“With Theo, it’s not just autism, there’s something else going on.”

A spokesperson for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said the Trust could not comment on specific cases.

She added: “The safety and welfare of children or young people who need help from specialist mental health services is our first priority, alongside supporting their families.

“To diagnose a young person with autistic spectrum condition (ASC) requires a multi-disciplinary assessment process to take place, which commissioners of both paediatric and CAMHS services in Sussex are currently reviewing to make the process clearer for families and to ensure any assessment is undertaken by the service with the most appropriate skills.

“Whilst there is a high level of demand upon child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and specialist learning disabilities services across the country, we will always endeavour to provide the most appropriate treatment and support for the young people that we work with based on their needs.”