Autism cage details emerge as United Nations investigates abuse of children

Emma Macdonald

Disturbing new details of a Canberra school placing a 10-year-old boy with autism in a cage have come to light, as the case spearheads an investigation by the United Nations into potential human rights violations of 55 students with disabilities across Australian schools.

While the boy's parents do not wish to make a public statement and do not want their son's identity or school revealed, Fairfax Media can confirm that the boy was forcibly placed in the cage on a handful of occasions early last year.

Autism Asperger ACT merger with Marymead prompted by NDIS funding limbo

Megan Gorey, Canberra Times

A key support service for more than 2000 people affected by autism and Asperger's syndrome has been saved by a last-minute merger after funding changes sparked by the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme cast doubt over its future.

Autism Asperger ACT services are to be folded into a specialised autism unit run by Canberra-based organisation Marymead under a move hoped to bolster support for children and families. 

A commentary on the ACT Government's response to Autism-related Questions on Notice 3-May-2016

The following shows the questions that were asked, the Government's attempt to answer, and some comments on the response given by the ACT Government.

Q1. How many public schools in the ACT currently have enclosures that can be used to prevent autistic students from wandering or absconding.

A1. ACT public schools use a variety of enclosed spaces to ensure the safety of all students. These include school perimeter fences, enclosed playgrounds, and enclosed courtyard spaces. Learning Support Units have different forms of play spaces and enclosed spaces and not all units have an enclosed space attached to the classroom. A list of units in schools is located at Attachment A.

The Government's response does not answer the question. A question that says “how many” expects/requires a numeric answer. Hopefully, most primary school students in the ACT understand how to answer such a question.

Cage inquiry reforms overwhelm Education Directorate

Emma Macdonald

The roll-out of reforms to schools prompted by the autism cage scandal has hit bureaucratic snags within the ACT Education Directorate – including timelines not being met, meetings not being attended, expertise not being available and information being double-handled.

ACT Education Minister Shane Rattenbury will publicly release the Schools for All oversight report on Friday, saying it was important schools and authorities were accountable for progress towards safe and inclusive learning environments for all children.

Poor availability of Speech Therapists in the ACT

ABC 666 Canberra had a short discussion (around 7.20am, 19/5/2016 = 1:39:20 into the ABC's online catchup at this link: https://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/peEDnx500Q) with Ms Anne Rowe about the difficulty accessing speech therapists in the ACT.

No clear reason was given for the difficulty reported in accessing speech therapist in the ACT.

SOfASD observes the following factors:

Human Rights Watch condemns boy in cage affair in national report

A leading international human rights group has highlighted the decision to place a 10-year-old autistic student in a metal cage as a violation of disability rights in Australia. 

Human Rights Watch, one of the world's most respected campaign organisations, detailed the incident in its latest annual report on abuses and concerns in Australia.

assessment of the Expert Panel's report (2015) and the ACT Government's response

Bob Buckley, SOfASD Chair

Following is SOfASD's view of the Schools for all Children and Young People: Report of the Expert Panel on Students with Complex Needs and Challenging Behaviour (The Report) and the ACT Government's response (available at http://www.det.act.gov.au/school_education/complex-needs).

The Report's Terms of Reference, the Expert Panel's report itself and the ACT Government's response to The Report all omit any mention of the “cage” affair that was the catalyst for the appointment of the Expert Panel. The Report is unclear about why the ACT Government convened the Expert Panel: key aspects of the recent context relating in challenging behaviour in schools are absent.

Bipartisan support in ACT Assembly for misinformation about autism prevalence

The ACT Government passed a motion about "autism" ...

That this Assembly:

(1)      notes:

           (a)     that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects around one in 160 children, with boys four times more likely to be affected than girls;

           (b)     the importance of early diagnoses, early intervention therapy and support for ASD;

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