Autistic pupils in Wales could be missing out on access to a special needs teacher because of long delays in being diagnosed, it has been reported.
Figures obtained by BBC Wales Today show almost 4,000 of the country's children have been confirmed as autistic, with two thirds of them remaining in mainstream education.
Yet the National Autistic Society (NAS) Cymru has told the news programme many autistic pupils are failing to receive appropriate educational support in time because almost half have to wait over two years for a diagnosis at present.
For example, in the Hywel Dda local health board area, which covers Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion, 311 children have been diagnosed as autistic, but a further 340 continue to await assessment.
NAS Cyrmu's Meleri Thomas remarked: "It is quite worrying local authorities don't know exactly how many children are waiting for a diagnosis, because if they don't know that then they can't know how to plan for provision and what kind of provision is needed.
"The more forward planning they can do, the better it would be in the longer term and for the children in their local authority areas."
A spokeswoman for Hywel Dda responded that the board is committed to bringing down autism diagnosis times, focusing on Pembrokeshire initially, and would be hiring additional staff in January for this purpose.
She added that the board is working with the Welsh government to refresh the country's autism strategy, to ensure all significant issues it currently faces are addressed satisfactorily in future.
Furthermore, a spokesman for Pembrokshire Council claimed it has responded to growing need by substantially expanding its specialist provision to a greater level than is offered by most local authorities.
He said the council is working extensively with parents both to develop special schools for autistic children and increase the capacity of mainstream schools to accommodate pupils with this condition.
Last year, NAS Cymru told BBC Wales 47 per cent of Welsh parents have to wait longer than three years for an autism diagnosis, whereas only 34 per cent of their English counterparts face that lengthy a delay.
Posted by Tim Colman