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14 January 2020, 01:10 | Updated: 14 January 2020, 06:30
Around half of parents have to wait 18 months or longer for their child to be formally diagnosed with autism, a charity has warned.
Ambitious About Autism said a number of mothers and fathers feel "isolated and helpless" as they wait for a diagnosis.
Many families will then struggle to get the right help for their child's needs when a diagnosis is finally made.
A poll conducted by the charity of almost 4,000 parents of children with autism found that 49% waited 18 months or more from the point of referral to getting a formal diagnosis.
A further one in five (19%) said it took between 12 and 17 months.
And around seven in 10 (70%) believe they were not offered adequate support after diagnosis, such as further information about autism, support groups or therapies such as help with speech and language.
Jolanta Lasota, chief executive of Ambitious About Autism, said: "Many parents say they feel isolated and helpless as they wait to find out if their child has autism.
"To make matters worse, our research tells us that even when families receive an autism diagnosis, they continue to struggle to access adequate help to understand and support their child's needs and help them feel positive about the future."
Ms Lasota added that the earlier autistic children are provided the right support and interventions, the easier it is for them "to thrive and achieve as they grow up".
Ambitious About Autism has launched a new online toolkit to give parents information, tips and checklists to help them support their child.
The charity claims around one in 100 children in the UK have autism, with four times as many boys as girls diagnosed.