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Is Autism A Disability In Australia

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Assessment And Diagnosis Of Autism

Oliver’s Story – Autism Spectrum Australia

A detailed assessment is crucial to making sure an accurate diagnosis is made. It will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team of a paediatrician, psychologist or psychiatrist, and speech pathologist.

Some children will demonstrate signs of ASD by the age of two, but a diagnosis may sometimes not be possible until three or older. There is a significant amount of research indicating that early intervention maximises outcomes and gives children on the autism spectrum the best possible chance of fulfilling their potential.

There are a number of government-funded teams that specialise in the assessment and diagnosis of ASD. Parents can contact these teams directly, but you may need a referral from your GP or paediatrician.

There are also private practitioners and teams who conduct assessments on a fee-paying basis.

provides information on public assessment teams in Victoria.

Ndis Resources For People With A Psychosocial Disability

People with a psychosocial disability find it harder than anyone to access the NDIS. There are a number of reasons for this, ranging from the barriers they confront in starting the process, through to the way the NDIS Act defines disability.

One of the keys to accessing the NDIS is to understand the kind of language a treating professional must use when providing evidence of a psychosocial disability. The resources below are intended to help you navigate through this complex area.

Disability Assessment Services And Supports

Hearing Services Program The Hearing Services Program provides hearing assessments and a standard range of devices. Children who are eligible for the hearing services program will get hearing devices through this program. Other children might be able to get hearing devices through their NDIS plan.

Public disability and autism assessment services You wont have to pay for these assessment services. Contact your state or territory disability or autism association or the NDIS for details of services in your area and information about the process in your state or territory. Some of these services might have long waiting lists.

You can get information about these and other services from local and state government disability services, state autism associations and disability-specific organisations.

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Centrelink Payment: Carer Adjustment Payment

The Carer Adjustment Payment is a one off payment for children under seven who have a severe illness or a significant disability. If eligible, the maximum payment amount any family can receive is $10,000 for each child. There are several eligibility criteria, and the amount you receive is dependent on your familys circumstances. The payment is non-taxable.

High School Students With Autism

Increasing numbers of Canberra residents diagnosed with ...

The teenage years can be a difficult time for those on the autism spectrum and their families. Like any teenager, they may have to deal with issues including sexuality, bullying, anxiety, depression and other emotional problems.

It can be hard to know when to start talking about puberty and how to explain some of the changes they are going through. Be as open and as honest as you can and let them know you are there for them all the time, even if they do not want to talk. Visit the Family Planning Victoria website for useful information on sexuality and people with a disability.

Some teenagers on the autism spectrum may be teased and bullied. Find more information on how to support your teenager on the autism spectrum on the Amaze website.

Leaving school

Approaching the time to leave school may result in a high level of anxiety for a young person on the autism spectrum and their family as they determine their next steps. There are a number of resources and supports that may be of assistance.

The Department of Education and Training’s Strengthened Pathways Planning for young people with disabilities – Parent Information provides guidance for parents on careers and transition planning for young people with disabilities. Links to relevant information, resources and services are included.

The document can be found at the Department’s website.

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Better Access To Mental Health

The Better Access to Mental Health Plan provides you or your child with up to 10 sessions per year with mental health professionals like psychologists, mental health occupational therapists and some social workers using the Medicare rebate. This referral can be accessed through your GP.

Group sessions such as a social skills group or emotion regulation groups can also be claimed under this plan, but you will need to check whether Medicare covers them first.

Intellectual Disability And Developmental Delays

Intellectual disability can be diagnosed when a child who is six years or older has an below 70 as well as difficulties with daily tasks. In children under six years, the term developmental delay is used when children have significant cognitive and language delays.

Intellectual disability varies from person to person. Autistic children with intellectual disability might have uneven skills, so there might be some things that theyre quite good at and others they find hard.

In most cases, autistic children have more trouble with verbal skills like talking, listening and understanding than with non-verbal skills like doing puzzles or drawing.

How common is intellectual disability in autistic children?In the past, it was thought that 50-60% of autistic children had intellectual disability or developmental delays. But its now thought to be 20-30%, with another 20-25% having borderline intellectual disability with an IQ of 71-85.

This drop might be because IQ testing for autistic children has improved, support and education is better at addressing autistic children’s learning needs, and more children without intellectual disability are being diagnosed with autism.

Some researchers have argued that some childrens developmental delays might be caused by their social learning difficulties, rather than being a separate condition.

Find out moreIntellectual disability

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What Support Is Available For People With Autism

The Australian Government funds the costs associated with having a disability through the National Disability Insurance Scheme . These funds enable people with disabilities and their families to have the supports they need.

Funding is given to eligible individuals to help them live to their full potential. Funding is based on individual needs to help people:

  • pursue their goals
  • improve their social and economic participation
  • develop their capacity to take part in the community.

As autism is a permanent disability, the NDIS provides funding for people with the condition. In fact, ASD is the largest primary disability category for the NDIS with 29% of participants having an approved plan for a primary disability of autism.

Autism In Australia: A Snapshot

What is autism?

While most people know someone on the autism spectrum, its not clear to everyone what autism actually is. Autism Spectrum Australia describes autism as a lifelong developmental disability characterised by difficulties in social interaction, impaired communication, restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours, and sensory sensitivities. 4 out of 5 people diagnosed with autism are male.

Until last year, it was generally accepted that approximately 1 in 100 people in Australia are on the autism spectrum. But that number is now considered to be closer to 1 in 70, with a broadening of autism criteria and improvements in identifying autism said to be behind the change.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Autism

The behaviours associated with autism fall into two broad areas: impaired social interaction and communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviours and interests.

The common signs and symptoms of autism are:

  • lack of social or emotional exchanges like pointing, smiling, showing you things
  • lack of non-verbal communication such as nodding and shaking head, using hand gestures
  • difficulty developing and maintaining relationships appropriate to the age, such as peer play, lack of close friends
  • delayed expressed speech and understanding of speech
  • lack of eye contact when speaking
  • loss of language skills at any age
  • excessively following routines, patterns or behaviour, and becoming distressed at changes
  • stereotyped or repetitive speech, movements or use of objects, such as rolling wheels before eyes, flapping hands, toe walking
  • strongly reacting to sensory input such as sound, pain or textures
  • restricted or fixated interests such as only playing with certain toys or discussing certain topics
  • being aggressive toward other people or toward self

General Early Intervention Eligibility

Children must be under the age of six at the time of registration to be eligible for funding.

Both the parent/carer and the child must be living in Australia permanently as:

  • an Australian citizen
  • the holder of a permanent resident visa, or
  • a New Zealand citizen who was:
  • in Australia on 26 February 2001, or for 12 months in the two years immediately before that date, or,
  • assessed as “protected” before 26 February 2004.

Children must be diagnosed with an eligible disability . An acceptable form of diagnosis includes either:

  • a document on letterhead paper with the signature and position of diagnosing person
  • an email with approved for transmission in the email by the appropriate diagnosing person.

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How Is Autism Managed

If your child is diagnosed with autism, you will be guided through the various treatment options. There are education programs and support services available for children with autism and their parents or caregivers from a number of organisations such as Autism Spectrum Australia.

Treatments used to manage autism are best started as early in a persons life as possible. Specific symptoms and social skills can be improved with the right support and programs. Because everyone with autism is different, the best results are obtained from a treatment program specifically tailored to their individual needs.

Language and social skills are taught through intensive educational programs and behavioural therapies. Speech pathology focuses on developing communication and social skills. Occupational therapy concentrates on sensory motor development, such as learning play and fine motor skills, as well as how to cope in social situations.

Public and private schooling options are available for children with autism. Find out more about schooling options on the Autism Awareness website.

Sometimes claims are made about treatments that are misleading. Avoid treatments that offer a cure or recovery as there is no evidence to support these claims. Ensure that the treatments and supports you choose are informed by evidence.

Autism Awareness Australia provides self-care tips and helpful links and resources.

Financial Support Available Through Hcwa

Raising a Child With Disability in Australia

If your child is eligible, HCWA provides access to early intervention funding of up to $12,000 until a childs seventh birthday.

You must apply for this funding before your childs sixth birthday. After your childs seventh birthday, you will no longer be able to access the funding.

If your application is successful, the funding will be paid to a registered HCWA service provider, who will then use that funding to provide therapy or interventions for your child.

If you live in an outer regional or remote area, you can get an extra, direct payment of $2,000 to help with travel and accommodation costs.

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No Link Between Autism And Immunisation

Any link between immunisation and autism has been completely discredited.

During the 1990s, concern in the community about a possible link between the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine and autism was generated by the findings of research conducted in London in 1998. The Wakefield study has since been discredited and withdrawn by the journal that originally published it. Dr Wakefields registration as a doctor in the United Kingdom has also been cancelled.

Extensive research conducted globally for a decade did not establish any link between vaccines and autism.

Web Resources: Disability And Carers

Carers AustraliaCarers Australia is a not for profit, benevolent national peak organisation dedicated to improving the lives of carers. Carers Australia’s highest priority is to promote recognition of the important role that carers have in the community and to empower carers by making them better informed and resourced.

Ministerial Advisory Committee: Students with DisabilitiesTwo resources are available on this site to assist parents and carers of children with disability. The booklets raise awareness about the safety and wellbeing of children with disability and highlight where parents and carers can go for advice. They include information on why children with disability are more vulnerable to abuse and neglect and provide practical help about what parents and carers can do to protect their children.

MyTimeHelps parents of young children with a disability or chronic medical condition by bringing them together with other parents to socialise and share ideas. Groups act as a support network for parents, where they can discuss experiences, thoughts and ideas. Parents will be kept up to date with new information and resources at meetings and can communicate online with other MyTime members throughout Australia.

NABS provides interpreters free of charge to any person who uses sign language, including Aboriginal and Islander Sign Language, to communicate and would like an interpreter for private medical appointments. Services are available to:

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Better Start For Children With Disability Eligibility

Your child may be eligible for Better Start if they are diagnosed with one of the following conditions:

  • sight impairment that results in vision of less than or equal to 6/18 vision or equivalent field loss in the better eye, with correction
  • hearing impairment that results in:
  • a permanent hearing loss of 40 decibels or greater in the better ear, across four frequencies or
  • permanent conductive hearing loss and auditory neuropathy in both ears.
  • deafblindness
  • Down syndrome, including mosaic Down syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome with full mutation, including those with mosaic Fragile X
  • Prader-Willisyndrome
  • microcephaly if a child has:
  • a head circumference less than the third percentile for age and sex and
  • a functional level at or below two standard deviations below the mean for age on a standard developmental test, or an IQ score of less than 70 on a standardised test of intelligence.
  • or the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence . Standard developmental test refers to Baley Scales of Infant Development or the Griffiths Mental Development Scales. It is up to the clinical judgement of the diagnosing practitioner if other tests are appropriate to be used)
  • Rettsdisorder.
  • What Do Disability Support Workers Do For People On The Autism Spectrum

    Making it Work at Work – Autism Association AIM Employment Program

    Disability Support Workers work closely with individuals and their families as well as service providers and other allied health professionals to enhance their skills to perform daily living tasks and to participate in the wider community.

    Disability Support Workers provide a range of services for people with autism, these can include:

    • Support in accessing and participating in the community
    • Support in daily activities such as shopping, cleaning and attending appointments
    • Developing new skills including daily living skills, communication skills and social interaction skills
    • Facilitating self-advocacy and empowermentSupporting individuals with disabilities to access and maintain work, or other vocational experiences.

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    Prevalence Causation And Cure

    It is clear that the majority of Australians have heard of autism, but that there are significant gaps in their knowledge and understanding of the condition and its impacts. More than half of the Study One respondents were aware that the number of autistic people in Australia is increasing, although only slightly more than one-third were aware that this is the case for females. This suggests a need to increase awareness of the prevalence of autism among girls and the differences between males and females in presentation of autism.

    The longevity of myths around autism, and the need for greater education, was evident in the area of causation, with significant proportions of Study One respondents unconvinced or unsure of the facts. For example, more than one in five believed that, or were unsure whether, vaccines cause autism and more than a third did not believe that, or were unsure whether, autism can be inherited or genetic. It was concerning to note that those with close relatives who are autistic were more likely than the general population or autistic people themselves to incorrectly believe that autism is caused by vaccines like MMR. Future research could explore the reasons for this difference for example, it may be due to the psychological need experienced by some for an explanation for their relatives autism or the strong influence of anecdotal evidence, such as emotive media coverage , which would have more salience for family members of autistic people.

    Family Support For Autistic People

    The family members of autistic individuals are also likely to need some support. Having an autistic child can have a significant effect on parents, who may react to the diagnosis in a variety of ways, including relief, shock, grief, anger and guilt.

    Feelings of stress, confusion and anxiety are also common in parents who are caring for an autistic child. It can be valuable for parents to consider joining a support group or participating in counselling.

    For more information visit the Better Health Channel page Autism spectrum disorder tips for parents.

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    Centrelink Initiative: Health Care Card

    When you receive the Carer Allowance, your child will be issued with a Health Care Card. It entitles your child to concession rates for prescription medicines and other concessions like discounted public transport for some cardholders, bulk billing by selected doctors and higher refunds through the Medicare Safety Net.

    Helping Children With Autism Eligibility

    Autism Spectrum Disorders

    A written conclusive diagnosis must be provided before entry into the program. A conclusive diagnosis can be made through any one of the following:

    • the HCWA Medicare items for diagnostic/assessment services as explained on the Department of Health website
    • a state/territory government or equivalent multidisciplinary assessment service
    • a private multidisciplinary team
    • paediatrician
    • psychiatrist.

    A multidisciplinary assessment team must consist of a psychologist and speech therapist, but can include an occupational therapist.

    Your child may be eligible if they are diagnosed with one of the following conditions:

    • Autism
    • Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified .

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