Media Release by Senator the Hon Jan McLucas

Government shows its commitment to helping children with Autism

The Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, today met with Playgroup Australia and PlayConnect Playgroups Coordinators in Brisbane, to discuss support for families and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

The Australian Government has provided $4.5 million to Playgroups Australia to deliver 150 PlayConnect Playgroups for children with Austism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or ASD-like symptoms up to six years of age.

Senator McLucas said more than 100 PlayConnect Playgroups were already running across the country, providing support to families of children with ASD.

“PlayConnect Playgroups offer opportunities for children with autism spectrum disorders to play and learn, while providing parents and carers the opportunity to develop social networks and link with other early intervention services in their local area,” Senator McLucas said.

“More than 600 children with ASD or ASD like symptoms regularly attend PlayConnect Playgroups nationally.”

Chief Executive Officer of Playgroup Australia Karen Merange said that PlayConnect Playgroups are proving a great success in providingvaluable support to parents and children during what can often be a challenging period for their families.

“What makes the program so special is that children do not need a formal diagnosis to attend, and all family members are welcome to join in.”

The national network of PlayConnect Playgroups is part of the Australian Government’s $190 million Helping Children with Autism package, an initiative aimed at providing early intervention services to children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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

Senator McLucas said World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 provides an opportunity for the broader community to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders and how the condition affects families and carers.

“World Autism Awareness Day is an opportunity to raise community awareness and show support for people with autism, their families and carers.”

Tomorrow evening, the Story Bridgein Brisbane will be lit in blueto recognise this important cause.

It is part of the Light It Up Blue campaign – a worldwide effort to raise awareness of autism with famous landmarks including the Sydney Opera House and New York’s Empire State Building being lit in blue.

“I encourage individuals, community groups, schools, businesses and other groups to ‘shine a light on autism’ and be part of autism awareness activities this World Autism Awareness Day,” Senator McLucas said.