Page 4164 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 18 November 2015
At this point I would like to pay tribute to my colleague Mr Doszpot and the great work he and his office are doing in highlighting some of these concerns and his ongoing recognition of the need to support students with special needs, in particular those with autism spectrum disorder, and other developmental disorders and ongoing interest in early intervention practices.
It is no secret that early diagnosis and early intervention of autism are key. The failure of the current Labor government to prepare for changes to the provision of services, in particular in relation to early intervention services, is well documented here in the ACT. In 2014 as we headed towards the start of the ACT’s commencement as a trial site for the national disability insurance scheme, it became very apparent that this was also a time of great anxiety for families with young children accessing or hoping to access government-provided early intervention services and therapy services for autism spectrum disorder. In the lead-up to the withdrawal of service provision by government, there was a complete lack of forward planning by Minister Burch and her directorate.
I reiterate my belief that this service provision should come from the private sector and that government should not play a part. However this was neither the issue nor the problem at the time. What was the problem was that families were left in the dark and completely stunned by the lack of suitable substitute providers. The complete disregard of families and the lack of consultation at that time were staggering. Thankfully, this episode is now part of history and service providers are now in place. But history must never forget the lessons that can be learned from that experience.
It is also no secret in this place that the Canberra Liberals are very supportive of early intervention services, and we are big fans of the model proposed by the AEIOU Foundation, as it is a proven model of early intervention service provision. Much of the research that surrounds early intervention for children with ASD is that there is no-one-size-fits-all solution and that many and varied solutions are on offer. Each of these options has varying amounts of research and evidence to back them up. However, there is consensus that key elements shape a successful early intervention program.
I have previously provided the following evidence in this place, but it is timely that this is repeated and reiterated to members of the Assembly. An autism-specific curriculum, such as the one provided by AEIOU, which has a focus on attention, compliance, imitation, language and social skills, which has highly supportive teaching environments dealing with the need for predictability and routine and which has the capacity to support challenging behaviours, obsessions and rituals, has proven a success. The addition of support for children as they transition in and out of the program as well as support for family members and a partnership with the professionals involved in treatments have proven to deliver success for the families and the children themselves.
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