Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Raising awareness of autism in schools

Around 10,000 schools across Australia are set to receive a DVD aimed at helping school children understand, accept and support children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What are you doing?, a short film presented by Autism Awareness Australia, written by Michael Whelan and narrated by comedian and television personality Tom Gleisner, features interviews with friends and young family members about what it is like to know someone with autism.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas and Parliamentary Secretary for School Education, Senator Jacinta Collins said the Australian Government is providing $80,000 to support the distribution of the DVD to schools across Australia.

“Showing this film to school children will help lay foundations in Australia’s next generation for more positive attitudes about and greater awareness of people with disability,” Senator McLucas said.

“Children with autism can face difficult and complex challenges, and are at risk of feeling isolated and unsupported by their peers.”

“The film examines some of the fears children may have about ASD, answers their questions and helps show them how they can be a great friend to a classmate on the autism spectrum.

“We hope that children who see the film will talk to their friends and family about it, raising community awareness and support for people with the condition, their families and carers, now and into the future.”

Senator Collins said the DVD will raise awareness in schools and encourage acceptance and understanding of children with ASD.

“I encourage all schools to show this DVD to their students and get behind this important initiative,” Senator Collins said.

“The film is a wonderful mix of compelling personal stories, engaging narrative and delightful animation, which aims to break down barriers and stereotypes, and encourage greater inclusion of children with autism so they can feel supported in the school environment.

The DVD is accompanied by a Teacher Resource Kit with pre and post film classroom activities.

The Resource Kit has been developed by Autism Awareness Australia, which has been educating Australians about autism since 2007.

“I would like to thank and congratulate Autism Awareness Australia for this film and for all their work supporting children with autism and their families,” Senator McLucas said.

The Australian Government is helping families with the costs of caring for children with autism, and improving access to early intervention services during the most critical period of their development through the $220 million Helping Children with Autism package.

Since its introduction in October 2008, more than 19,000 children have accessed early intervention services and therapies through the package, including access to Autism Advisors, family support and playgroups.

The Government has also set up six Autism Specific Early Learning Centres across Australia to help children with autism prepare for primary school by building their confidence through learn and play.

“Preparing children for school is one half of the equation, the other is to ensure they are accepted when they get there, and this film will be invaluable in helping to achieve this goal,” Senator McLucas said.

A hard copy of the DVD is being posted to primary, secondary, public and private schools across Australia during August.

The DVD will be available for purchase online later this year. A trailer of the film can be viewed at