Tasmania Opposition Leader Will Hodgman
Tasmania Shadow Minister for Health Brett Whiteley
$4.5 Million From Liberals To Deliver Australia-First Autism Services
Victor P Taffa
A Hodgman Liberal Government will become the first State government in Australia to deliver early intensive treatment services for children with autism.
The Liberals have committed $4.5 Million over four years to begin a staged, long-term and evidence-based approach to autism services which will deliver early screening, diagnosis and early intensive treatment for children with autism.
“This policy, combined with our long-term commitment to the continuation and expansion of the A-team support program, will for the first time deliver interventional therapy for children with autism, and help ease the pressure on families.” Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said.
“Introduce early screening for autism at 18 months and two years of age by child health nurses and GPs, in recognition of the fact that a child with autism will display clear evidence of this before the age of three years. Checklists for autism in toddlers are in practice world-wide, take just 5-10 minutes and are 90% accurate in detecting autism.” Mr. Hodgman said.
“Set up a diagnostic panel for those red-flagged by the early screening tool, so those children can undergo full diagnosis. This will use world best practice principles of testing for co-morbidities and other genetic disorders, including epilepsy and Fragile X.”
“Establish Early Intensive Treatment Centres for Autism in each region – with the first centre in the south of the State. The Centres will provide each child with 20-30 hours of intensive behavioural intervention a week by trained therapists, while also providing rehabilitation and treatment for children who are not currently coping in the existing schools system. It will provide transition care for times when children and young people with autism regress, such as family break-up and puberty. The Centre will provide professional development and learning opportunities for parents, teachers and teacher aides, and be accessible to the University of Tasmania for graduate teachers, psychologists and allied and other health professionals, including child health nurses.” Mr. Hodgman said.
“Provide withdrawal areas in all primary schools. The Early Intensive Treatment Centre would also provide assistance to schools to allow continuity for the child’s individually tailored program. The A-team will be continued and strengthened to work with children with autism who are struggling to cope in the high school environment.”
“The Liberals’ policy on autism was a result of listening intently to the experiences of families with children with autism about their struggle to find services and support.” Shadow Minister for Health Brett Whiteley said.
“Autism is a health condition – a genetic impairment. However, latest research shows that while autism is a lifelong condition, with early intensive intervention, children with autism can ‘recover’ (meaning that their disability no longer impairs them from having a normal life; that they can be indistinguishable from their peers).”
“We must give our children and young people this chance – without it, those children could face a lifetime of care.”
“Currently services and support for autism do not provide intensive intervention treatment. Many families cannot afford private services and many have struggled to even get a diagnosis. These policies are now having huge cost implications for budgets, including disability services, child and family services, youth justice, correctional services, mental health services and education.”
“An autistic child can place enormous strain on a family, and the Tasmanian Commissioner for Children, as well as the Australian Autism Advisory Council, has recommended a minimum of 20 hours of early intensive intervention per child per week.” Mr. Whiteley said.
The Bartlett State Labor Government has continued to ignore such advice. In contrast, the Liberals’ policy offers hope and real change for children with autism and their families.