Page 822 - Week 02 - Thursday, 12 February 2009

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established in 2008 to develop a set of best practice guidelines and a resource kit/handbook to support staff working with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in ACT public schools. Once completed the introduction of the guidelines will be supported with a professional learning program in 2009. A range of other opportunities are available for staff to enhance their skills and knowledge about autism. See response to (2).

(2) The Department of Education and Training provides a range of opportunities for staff to enhance their skills and expertise in teaching children with Autism. These opportunities include workshops conducted by experienced staff or visiting experts and supported attendance at conferences and seminars. Teachers are supported to participate in a Graduate Diploma in Disability Studies (Autism) offered by the University of Canberra and assistants are supported to enrol in the certificate and diploma courses in disability work offered by the Canberra Institute of Technology.

(Question No 9)

Ms Bresnan asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 December 2008 (redirected to the Minister for Community Services):

(1) Given the low availability of speech therapists and other appropriate specialists for children in the autistic/asperger’s spectrum, what funding is available to help families, particularly with low incomes, access privately-organised programs.

(2) Why are the specialist home visits such as psychologist, speech therapist and occupational therapist, confined to those under five only.

(3) What lobbying is the ACT Government doing to gain extra Federal funding for this underserviced area.

Ms Gallagher: The answer to the member’s question is as follows:

(1) The ACT Government provides free services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Aspergers syndrome through Therapy ACT and the Department of Education and Training. There are no ACT Government programs to assist families to access private programs. This assistance is provided by the Commonwealth Government through its Autism Initiatives, which includes funding of up to $12,000 per child and access to medicare rebates. The Commonwealth will also fund autism advisers in each State and Territory to provide advice to families on the availability of services, including those provided by State and Territory Governments.

(2) Therapy ACT currently provides services to 213 school aged children (aged between 5 and 16) with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. These children may be visited at home for specialist intervention services particularly in relation to behaviour modification (psychology), sensory disorder (occupational therapy) or communication (speech pathology). Visits may be at school rather than at home, as parents often identify that their child needs more support in the school environment.

(3) The ACT Government represents the needs of all people with a disability in its negotiations with the Commonwealth Government for growth funding for disability services.

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