The mother of a girl with suspected autism is resorting to private treatment after having to wait years for an official diagnosis.

Jemma Johnson, of Braintree, is trying to raise money for three-year-old daughter Olivia to see a private specialist.

The mum-of-two was told she will have to wait two years for a full diagnosis, despite Olivia showing multiple traits of autism since she was just a year old.

When Jemma first began to notice signs of autism, Olivia was taken to see a paediatrician. She says a specialist told her it was “100 per cent autism”, but they would have to wait for a formal diagnosis from the NHS to get legal paperwork stating Olivia’s needs. More than a year on, she has been told she will have to wait another 18 months for an appointment.

Jemma and husband Louis have also started to notice traits similar to Olivia’s in younger son Finley, but have been told he cannot be seen by specialists until he is two.

Jemma said: “The most difficult thing for us as parents is not being able to communicate with the children, and knowing there is such a long wait before diagnosis.

“Until that time we have to just get by hoping we understand them as best we can.”

Jemma’s main concern is that Olivia will not have a diagnosis before she starts school. She said: “Olivia is highly likely to need a special educational needs school, however with limited spaces available it is likely she’ll go to a mainstream school like many other children with additional needs.”

The family have set up a GoFundMe page to raise the money to get a private diagnosis for Olivia, which will cost £2,950. They are also staging fundraising events such as raffles and bake sales.

Jemma has chosen the Lorna Wing Centre in Chigwell for a private diagnosis for both Olivia and Finley. She added: “Our healthcare visitor has been brilliant and has said she will send off another referral early in September to see if he is accepted.”