Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Working to help children with Autism

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, today met with Autism Advisors from across Australia to discuss support for families and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The Australian Government is delivering a $190 million Helping Children with Autism package, an initiative aimed at providing early intervention services to children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In this recent Federal Budget, the Government is providing an additional $29 million to meet increased demand in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

“This funding boost will assist more families with the costs of caring for children with Autism and ensure essential funding is available for early intervention for children in the most critical period of their development,” Senator McLucas said.

Initiatives under the Helping Children with Autism package include:

  • Autism Advisors
  • Funding of up to $12,000 for families to access early intervention services
  • PlayConnect Playgroups
  • Early Days family workshops
  • An Autism Spectrum Disorder website

Addressing Autism Advisors at a forum in Brisbane today, Senator McLucas said they provided a critical link between clinical diagnosis and access to early intervention and support services.

“Parents and carers of children with autism face many difficult and complex challenges and are at risk of feeling isolated and unsupported.

“The Autism Advisors are providingimportant support to parents and children during what can often be a challenging period for families.

“The Advisors give specific information and support for parents and carers about access to early intervention funding and appropriate early intervention services.”

Autism Advisors have registered over 14,000 eligible children for Early Intervention funding since the Helping Children with Autism package commenced in October 2008.

The Australian Government is building on the Helping Children with Autism package with new access to early intervention services for more children with a disability through the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.

In the recent Federal Budget, the Australian Government committed $146.5 million over four years to deliver the new initiative.

Senator McLucas said the Better Start initiative is expected to help more than 9,000 children aged under six years who have been diagnosed with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, Fragile X syndrome, and moderate or severe vision or hearing impairments, including deafblindness.

From July 1, eligible children will have access to a total of $12,000 in flexible funding for early intervention services like speech pathology, audiology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychology.