Media Release by The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Government supports more children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Up to 1000 more children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) will be eligible for funding of up to $12,000 under the Helping Children with Autism package, after an Australian Government decision to expand eligibility for the program.

Families Minister Jenny Macklin said changes to eligibility criteria would allow more children to access early intervention services and will ensure equal access across all states and territories.

“For families, the toll of caring for and raising a child with ASDs can be immense,” Ms Macklin said.

“These individual packages will give children with ASDs the chance to benefit from a range of early interventions, including one-on-one intensive activities and tailored group and individual programs.

“The package is the first national initiative to help families deal with this challenging disorder and is a major breakthrough in support for children and their families.”

Under the changes children with Autism Spectrum Disorders will be eligible for support until they reach their sixth birthday, regardless of whether they are attending school or not. Previously children were rendered ineligible once they started school.

Under the revised criteria, up to 1000 more children who previously would have been ineligible, due to their attendance at school, could now be eligible for up to $12,000 in 2009.

Additionally, from the child’s sixth birthday until they turn seven years of age special consideration may be given which would allow continued access to the funding. This will be determined by an Autism Advisor on a case-by-case basis.

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Bill Shorten, said that early intervention for children with ASDs was crucial in helping include them in society and that the change would help parents concerned their child would lose eligibility at the start of the school year.

“Parents and carers who are raising children with ASDs face huge pressures every day. The individual packages provide practical help and support to them,” Mr Shorten said.

“They are a chance for children with ASDs to access professional help that is designed specifically for their needs.”

The four-year Helping Children with Autism package, which began in July last year will help an estimated 9,000 children diagnosed with an ASD.

Eligible families will be able to visit an Autism Advisor through autism associations in each state to access services that best suit their child from a specialist panel.

Autism Advisors will provide information and advice for families and carers following diagnosis and will be the central liaison for early intervention funding packages.

Around 1,200 families who reside in an outer regional or remote area may also be eligible to access a one-off payment of $2,000 per eligible child to cover their additional expenses accessing early intervention services.

This improved support for families of children with an ASD, including increased access to early intervention services, flows from the Australian Government’s commitment of $190 million over five years through the Helping Children with Autism package.

The package also includes:

  • Medicare rebates for ASD diagnosis and 20 visits to allied health professionals such as occupational therapists and psychologists for children aged up to 12 years old;
  • 150 playgroups specifically for families and children with ASDs;
  • Professional development for 450 teachers and school staff to support students with ASDs; and
  • Workshops and information for parents and carers of pre-school and school aged children with ASDs, including an ASD website.

For more information, please visit Helping Children with Autism or call 1800 289 177.