Nicola Bulmer is more familiar with waiting lists than most. Her husband waited two years for an autism diagnosis and her three children are all waiting for autism or ADHD assessments.

Nicola, 42, from Newton Aycliffe, says: “Our family is living in a state of purgatory. The moment you are diagnosed, the world changes – you realise who you are.”

Phil, 46, is still waiting for an ADHD assessment. Nicola says: “My daughter Megan shares a lot of traits with Phil, and was referred in February 2021. She has now turned 18 and hasn’t been seen, so they are moving her into the adult system at the same point.

“I’m worried because she goes to university in September and will need the Disabled Students Allowance and reasonable adjustments. But when we ring the health authority, they say they can’t tell us where she is on the list.

If we had £1,250 we could get a private diagnosis for her next week. But with three children waiting, we can’t do that.

Megan’s older brother Bradley, 20, was referred earlier this year and was told it would take at least a couple of years to be seen.

Her younger sister Bronte, 13, is on a neurodivergent children’s waiting list which is up to five years.

Nicola, who lectures at Darlington College, says: “It’s so frustrating because they can’t get all the support that comes with diagnosis. It affects every part of their life. They don’t understand who they are or why they are as they are.”

See our story on waiting lists