Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

A better start for children in Townsville

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers Senator Jan McLucas today met with children and their families at the AEIOU Foundation for Children with Autism Centre in Kirwan, Townsville.

AEIOU Townsville provides early intervention services including speech pathology, psychologist services and occupational therapy for children aged 2½ to six years who have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) under the Australian Government’s Helping Children with Autism package.

“AEIOU is doing great work with the Townsville community, providing a positive influence on children with Autism Spectrum Disorders who attend the centre, as well as on their families and carers,” Senator McLucas said.

“Early intervention can make a huge difference to a child with disability.”

“The early intervention services provided by AEIOU are helping to ensure children receive the best possible preparation for their transition to school, as well as providing a network of support for parents and carers.”

The visit follows a $29 million boost in the Federal Budget to the Helping Children with Autism package which delivers early intervention services for children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The funding will assist more families in Townsville access services and therapies for their children with Autism in the most critical period of their development.

Since its introduction in October 2008, more than 12,000 children have accessed early intervention services through the Helping Children with Autism package.

Senator McLucas said building on the success of Helping Children with Autism package, the Australian Government is providing $146.5 million to give children with disability affecting their development access to intensive early intervention services through the new Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.

The Better Start initiative will help 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 1 July this year, eligible children will be able to access a range of early intervention service providers including speech pathologists, audiologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, orthoptists and psychologists.

“This will give parents and carers access to the early intervention funding and information they need to give their child the best possible start in life,” Senator McLucas said.

Eligible children will have access to a total of $12,000 in flexible funding for early intervention services and will be able to use up to $6,000 in any one financial year.

Carers Australia will act as an entry point for parents to register eligible children over the phone or in person at the Registration and Information Service offices based in every capital city and in regional centres across Australia.

More information is also available by calling the Better Start helpline on 1800 989 530 between 8:30am and 5:00pm, Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).