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;

           (c)     the role of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and that the ACT will be the first jurisdiction to fully transition to the scheme;

           (d)     the new arrangements for support, including post school options, which will take place with the transition to the NDIS;

           (e)     that, as of September this year, 2176 ACT residents have plans and another 439 have been deemed eligible and are developing plans through the NDIS;

           (f)     the establishment of the Child Development Service which will commence in 2016;

           (g)     that the Education and Training Directorate has 27.5 Learning Support Unit Classes and 30.5 Learning Support Unit (Autism) Classes in ACT government schools; and

           (h)     the commissioning of an Expert Panel on Students with Complex Needs and Challenging Behaviour and the Government’s response, which will be made available on 18 November 2015, with future updates to the Assembly, and

(2)      calls on the Government to:

           (a)     continue the transition to the NDIS;

           (b)     continue to update the Assembly on the roll-out of the NDIS in line with previous resolutions of the Assembly, and

           (c)     write to the Australian Government to resolve, as a matter of urgency, how the NDIS will fund and support Information, Linkages and Coordination services.”—

be agreed to—put and passed.

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SOfASD notes that the ACT Government's estimate of the number of autistic children is wrong by a factor of at least 2; the number of children in the ACT diagnosed with ASD and who are registered (by an allied health professional) to receive Carer Allowance (Child) and the respective prevalence for ages ranges are given in the following table:

  ACT Australia
  count prevalence   count prevalence
0-4 50 0.186%   5748 0.374%
5-9 272 1.143% (1 in 87) 1.425%
(1 in 70)
29027 1.907% (1 in 52) 2.032%
(1 in 49)
10-14 389 1.812% (1 in 55) 31840 2.249% (1 in 44)  
15 66 1.150% (1 in 87) 5569 1.939% (1 in 52)  

A Government that so badly under-estimates the number of children diagnosed with autism does not have a genuine interest early intervention. The data shows autism diagnoses in the ACT are delayed compared the national average. 

The ACT Government used the introduction of the NDIS as its excuse to eliminate centre-based early intervention for autism (its Autism Intervention Units that had developing for decades) from the ACT.

NDIS implementation in the ACT trial is less than half way to its target when it is almost 3/4 of the way through its introduction.

Recent international attention shows that the ACT Education and Training Directorate is struggling with autistic students in schools, especially in relation to students with "challenging behaviour". They had to convene their "Expert Panel" ... which has serious conflicts of interest. And sadly, their report leaves too many remaining issues to give much hope that it (and the associate funding, committed without any community consultation) can lead to the required improvements.

Together, the ACT and Commonwealth Governments dismantled the crucial information and linkage service provided previously by Autism Advisors before they had any idea whatsoever what they would replace it with. In the meantime, much of the valuable intellectual capital has been lost. 

This motion demonstrates that the ACT Government simply do not understand autism so the furyre for autistic people in the ACT continues to look bleak.