Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Film raises autism awareness among school children

A special screening of a film aimed at helping school children understand, accept and support children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder was held at Australian Parliament House in Canberra today.

What are you doing?, 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.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas said the film encourages greater awareness and acceptance of children with autism among their peers.

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

“This 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.

“It addresses some of the fears and misconceptions children may have about autism, and teaches them how to be a friend to a person with autism.

“It is also hoped that children who see the film will pass their knowledge on to others, including their parents, raising community awareness and support for people with the condition, their families and carers.

Autism Awareness Australia has been educating Australians about autism since 2007.

This included participating in the Light It Up Blue campaign, which saw the Sydney Opera House, Brisbane’s Story Bridge and other iconic Australian buildings lit in blue to commemorate World Autism Awareness Day, held in April each year.

“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 16,000 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.