Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Milestone for children’s autism program

Joint Media Release with:

  • Deb O'Neill MP, Member for Robertson

The first national initiative to help families and children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder has celebrated the delivery of its 500,000th service.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Jan McLucas today joined Member for Robertson, Deb O’Neill at the Central Coast Aspect School in Terrigal to mark the achievement under the Australian Government’s $220 million Helping Children with Autism package.

The Helping Children with Autism package provides early intervention services to young children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, including access to autism advisors, family support and playgroups.

Senator McLucas said the impressive take-up by families shows how critical this initiative is in supporting their children’s development.

“Our government is proud that just over three years into this important initiative we have been able to support more than 16,000 young children with autism have a better start in life,” Senator McLucas said.

“Early intervention and ongoing family support can make a huge difference to children’s quality of life, making it easier for them to attend school and participate in everyday activities.”

Ms O’Neill said many Central Coast families were accessing early intervention services.

“The Helping Children with Autism package is giving Central Coast families access to quality services, just like those provided by Aspect. Importantly, it is also connecting families with others who can provide peer support,” Ms O’Neill said.

“Every parent wants the best for their child and this package is improving access to early intervention services during the most critical period of their development.”

Early intervention services where families can access professional assistance for their child are available in more than 1300 locations across Australia through the Helping Children With Autism package.

More than 2,200 children have been supported through PlayConnect Playgroups and more than 4,000 parents and carers have attended Early Days Workshops across the country to date.

Six Autism Specific Early Learning Centres have also been set up across the country, offering early learning and care services, and helping children to grow in confidence and experience playing and learning with others.

The Helping Children With Autism package also includes:

  • the autism spectrum disorder website (
  • Medicare rebates for the development of a treatment and management plan for eligible children under the age of 13. Medicare rebates are now available for up to four allied health diagnostic services and for up to 20 relevant allied health treatment services per eligible child.

Building on the success of Helping Children with Autism, the Australian Government established the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative from July 1 2011.

Better Start gives children under the age of six who have been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and vision or hearing impairments including deafblindness, access to up to $12,000 in early intervention funding.

Families are able to choose how to use their funding by selecting service providers from a panel of professionals. They have until their child’s seventh birthday to use the funding.

Children in outer regional, rural and remote areas are also eligible for an additional one-off payment of $2,000 to help meet the costs of accessing services such as travel and home visits.

Ms O’Neill said the response by local families to the Better Start program has been very strong.

“A big challenge for many local families is the cost of early intervention services. Better Start is making quality early intervention services and therapies more accessible,” Ms O’Neill said.

Senator McLucas said both Helping Children With Autism and Better Start for Children with Disability programs give parents choice about the early intervention services they access to support their children’s development.

Giving people more choice about the services they receive would be an essential feature of a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

For more information parents on Helping Children with Autism and Better Start, visit