Media Release by The Hon Bill Shorten MP

Expanded autism services begin today

Joint Media Release with:

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

Around 1400 children with Autism Spectrum Disorders will have easier access to early intervention services from today, following changes to the Rudd Government’s Helping Children with Autism package.

The changes will increase the number of service providers, and allow families more time to use the $12,000 in early intervention funding 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.

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 receive early intervention funding.

Due to significant demand, some families had been placed on waiting lists and have not been able to use their full funding package before their child’s sixth birthday.

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

The new arrangements will also 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 individually, increasing the number of service providers families can access across Australia.

While estimates on the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders vary, it is widely accepted that as many as one in 160 children are affected.

To give these children the best chance in life we must make sure they get the early intervention support that is so important for their development.

For children with Autism Spectrum Disorders early intervention can make a huge difference to their quality of life and their ability to participate in the school system.

Since October 2008, more than 4100 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.