Page 3946 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 30 October 2013

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In Canberra, families do have access to a range of services delivered through disability and therapy services and also the Education and Training Directorate. The early intervention program is available to children from two to five years who have been diagnosed with delayed development, disability or other risk factors. It works with parents, staff and therapists through play sessions and provides individual learning plans for each child. There are also early intervention playgroups for two to three-year-olds, and the program caters for children with social and communication difficulties, physical disabilities or a multiplicity of disabilities, and provides therapies.

There are also early childhood intervention units for three years to school entry children with difficulties. There are language intervention units for children who have difficulties vocalising and communicating. This service provides speech therapy, albeit at a capped amount per week, for children who require it.

There is also a discrete autism intervention unit for children with a confirmed diagnosis of ASD. Through this program, children can attend two 4½-hour sessions a week in an intensive setting and additionally attend preschool for a further four hours per week.

There are other services for ASD children—an early childhood centre accommodating eight children in each group for children aged three to school age—for both mild to moderate developmental delays and children with an autism diagnosis. These are available for eight hours a week, whilst early childhood units operate at Cranleigh and Malkara for six children in each group also for eight hours a week. For older children with ASD, there are learning support units in primary and high schools. And of course we have outstanding special schools at Malkara, Cranleigh for young children and Woden and Black Mountain for older children.

In other states of Australia there are various specialist settings and programs for children who have a range of disabilities. No one disability is any more important than another. It is the disability, or in many cases the range of disabilities, that a child has that is of most concern to a parent, and it is the range of programs that cater for your child that a parent will advocate for.

While parents of children with ASD in Canberra are grateful for what is available, they know that other states have other programs, and some Canberra families have relocated to Queensland to access them. We know because they have told us. Parents want what is best for their children and there are better services available and better ways of making it happen. They tell us they would like a more streamlined process for early diagnosis, and we know that they want access to more intensive therapies because, by comparison, parents of children with an ASD diagnosis living in Queensland are particularly well served.

There is a state-run autism centre that delivers similar programs to what is available in the ACT. But in addition, there are nine unique, specific learning centres for ASD children delivered through the AEIOU Foundation. For anyone who has visited one of the centres—and I did, along with my colleague Mr Andrew Wall; we visited a centre in Queensland—you quickly see how truly inspirational these centres are. And for

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