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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 18 November 2015) . . Page.. 4163 ..

(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) that the current approach adopted by the ACT Government to address the needs of ASD students in ACT government schools is not adequate;

(c) the importance of early diagnosis and early intervention therapy for children with ASD; and

(d) the lack of post school options available for young adults with ASD; and

(2) calls on the ACT Government to implement a Whole of Government strategy to improve the outcomes for families and individuals with ASD, as a priority.

I am very pleased to bring this motion to this place today. This motion highlights the unique needs of people with autism spectrum disorder, and in my view these needs are not being met by the current government. Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and relates to the world around them and other people. People with ASD are affected in different ways while there are some similarities in behaviours.

If we look at the most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which we must acknowledge is now ageing a little bit, we see an increase in the diagnosis rates of ASD. Data from the Australian bureau of stats also shows that in 2012 five per cent of children with autism attended school and did not experience any educational restrictions. Of the 95 per cent of children who did experience some restrictions, six per cent were not able to attend school because of their disability and 44 per cent needed to attend either a special class in a mainstream school or a special school. For children with autism who were attending school, 86 per cent reported having difficulty at school, the majority of whom had difficulty with fitting in socially, learning and communication.

In 2009 the review of special education in the ACT, also referred to as the Shaddock review, outlined 68 possible options for the future of special education in ACT schools as a basis from which to develop a comprehensive plan to improve services to students with a disability. Six years on, Professor Shaddock has been called upon to provide another review, this time into complex needs and challenging behaviours in schools. The questions remain: what is different now, where are we now and what has actually been achieved?

The 2009 review talked about implementing policies that supported the pivotal role of classroom teachers, including increasing numbers and seniority of consultants in the inclusion support program. Six years on, that discussion is still taking place. In fact, a more worrying picture has emerged. According to Professor Shaddock’s most recent report, 70 per cent of teachers surveyed said that they had not received support when dealing with students with challenging behaviours and 48 per cent said they did not feel they had adequate training. The end message is the same as it was six years ago: teachers need more support to ensure the needs of all students are met and met well.

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