Page 870 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 March 2005

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The service for kids with autism is something that we are very conscious that we need to address. The government has recognised that it is a significant issue. It is one that has emerged in recent times. Members would know that it was never spoken about in this place five years ago. I do not think that anybody could safely say that they knew the extent of the service. We have tackled this issue head on and I have every faith in the staff of Therapy ACT. Their determination that it is a priority for attack is well worth noting by this Assembly.

I would ask the Assembly to note the additional funds that have been put into it, the fact that we have recruited significantly to it and the fact that we are developing programs. Most significantly, we are working with the parents. The parents are the ones who have the difficulty day to day. That is something that we recognise and we respect.

Mr Speaker, I hope that I have answered Dr Foskey’s question. If not, I am happy to receive a supplementary question. I can see that she is busting to ask one.

DR FOSKEY: Given that some children more than five years of age have a waiting time of up to two years, could you please advise me as to what support is given to the children waiting for the service while they are attending school?

Ms Gallagher: Maybe it is a question for me.

MR HARGREAVES: The question confuses me a little, Dr Foskey. I am not sure whether you are talking about social support for those families and their kids or whether you are talking about educational support for those kids.

DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. If it is a question for a different minister, is it within the standing orders for that minister to answer it? Ms Gallagher is suggesting that it is a question for her.

MR SPEAKER: The question is supplementary to the question that you originally asked, Dr Foskey.

MR HARGREAVES: Mr Speaker, I will take the supplementary question. Firstly, there are the two aspects of support for these kids. There is the support within the education system and there is the support in their homes and within the community generally. Therapy ACT staff works with those parents and with those families to make sure that they have the sorts of support that they need to be able to handle a particularly difficult situation. They work extensively with them. They do not just stick them on a waiting list and leave them alone.

Secondly, within the education system, if you take the service provided at Gowrie primary school as an example, there are specific programs designed to give these kids assistance and, with a bit of luck, integrate them into the system. Sometimes it does not work. Sometimes it is a bit more intensive, one on one. But we do not forget the kids once they reach five years of age. We know that they are an integral part of our community and we look after them.

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