Page 3295 - Week 11 - Tuesday, 17 September 2013

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I would like to briefly touch on some of the long-term benefits of early intervention for children with autism. There are significant long-term benefits to the territory beyond what my colleagues have already outlined today. The lifelong costs associated with supporting an individual with a disability such as autism are significant. AEIOU have done some modelling around the impact of their early intervention programs and what changes they may have on the quality of life of an individual over a lifetime. For the purposes of the study, individuals were broken into three different groups depending on the severity of their disorder.

Group 1 was of children with a severe intellectual impairment, likely to be non-verbal and suffering from significant behavioural issues and anxieties. That forms about 20 per cent of the childhood population of autistic kids. Group 2 was children with a mild to moderate intellectual impairment, likely to experience difficulties with language and communication, particularly in social settings. Group 3 was of children with a high-functioning autism. While not suffering from intellectual disabilities, these individuals can experience difficulties in other areas of their lives and the long-term impacts can be often quite severe. This, again, forms about 20 per cent of children.

In the education years, of the children of group 2 who did not undertake an early intervention program, 80 per cent required full-time special education, with the balance of them entering into a mainstream school but still requiring regular special ed, compared to only 40 per cent of children who received early intervention requiring full-time special education, with 60 per cent managing to enter mainstream schooling.

Of the children in group 3 who did not receive early intervention support, only 20 per cent managed to attend a mainstream school without any additional support while 65 per cent of those who received early intervention were able to enter mainstream schooling without any other support or assistance.

Later in life the employment prospects of those individuals who went through an early intervention program are significantly improved, with 95 per cent of those belonging to group 3 and 70 per cent from group 2 going on to maintain employment at or above minimum wage. The most significant improvements can be found and measured in living independence for individuals in group 1—80 per cent of those who did not receive any early intervention are expected to require full-time care compared to only half that number for individuals who received early intervention in those formative years. There are significant improvements in these figures across all groups, with 70 per cent of those classified as group 3 and who received early intervention support managing to live completely independently.

To put these benefits into dollar terms over the lifetime of an individual with autism, the savings to the community for a group 3 individual are estimated to be at around $750,000, ranging through to $1.3 million in savings to the community for an individual belonging to group 1. This highlights that early intervention is the best recipe for improving lifelong outcomes for those with autism.

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