Over the last few years a number of constituents with autistic children have asked for my help to secure the specialist support that they need, and I've become increasingly aware of the problems that such families face.

So last Friday I met with Autism Sussex in Arundel to discuss what more can be done to support young people with this condition.

The charity provides a range of services for people with autistic spectrum conditions, receiving most of its funding from public bodies such as West Sussex County Council.

As I know from my constituency cases, there are a number of frustrations that parents of autistic children have to face.  These include obtaining a diagnosis and then getting a statement of special needs.

Even when a diagnosis and a statement have been secured there is often difficulty in co-ordinating services from the local education authority and the health service and other sources of support.Another hurdle is the transition from child to adult.  Parents of autistic children worry about further education and employment prospects and what will happen to their children when they are gone.

The Government is concerned about the availability of support for autistic children and this week launched a new strategy for special educational needs.  A new single birth to 25 years assessment process will be put into place - local authorities and health services will be required to link up services for disabled children and young people so that they are jointly planned and commissioned.

And for the first time, parents will be given the power to control personal budgets for their children, so that they can choose the expert support that is right for their child. 

I am convinced that more can be done to help make an already difficult situation easier for the parents and children affected.  So I will be convening a local 'summit' in the summer to bring together parents, social services and the NHS to discuss the issues.

It can be really hard for parents with children who have Autism.  I hope that we can find ways to secure the help they need in future.

Christopher N Howarth