Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Autism services expanded across Australia

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Bill Shorten MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children's Services

Around 1400 children with Autism Spectrum Disorders will have easier access to early intervention services, following changes to the Helping Children with Autism package.

The changes will increase the number of service providers and allow families more time to use the $12,000 over two years available under this package.

This funding gives children with Autism Spectrum Disorders the chance to benefit from a range of early interventions, including one-on-one intensive activities and tailored group and individual programs.

From 19 October 2009, new arrangements will allow additional speech pathologists, occupational therapists and psychologists to participate in the autism program, subject to quality requirements.

Under the previous requirements, individual professionals could only be approved if they formed or joined consortia and operated as part of a team. Now these providers can join the program, increasing the number of service providers families can access across Australia.

Under the changes, families with children approved for early intervention funding will also be able to access early intervention funds until the child’s seventh birthday.

This has been increased from six years, and will give families an extra year to access autism services.

Families will still need to have their child diagnosed with Autism before their sixth birthday and see an Autism Advisor to access early intervention funding.

Parents who have since lost access to their approved early intervention funding because their child turned six, will be given an additional 12 months to use the funding.

Due to significant demand, some families have experienced waiting lists and have been unable to utilise their full funding package before their child had their sixth birthday.

Since October 2008, more than 3700 children have accessed services under the $190 million Helping Children with Autism package, the first national initiative to help families deal with this challenging disorder.

Currently there are almost 350 service organisations delivering early intervention in 536 locations across Australia.

Helping Children with Autism is making it easier for parents to access early intervention services for children with autism.