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Aussies Hold Autism “Summit”
It seems Australia has much of the same problems that we do here in the US. I would be a rich person if I got a quarter for each time the school system took credit for what we did in our home program.
[From the Chronicle, Wangaratta.]
Families are being forced to educate their autistic children at home because schools can't cope with their special needs, Liberal Party shadow ministers were told at an autism summit in Wangaratta yesterday.
Parents from Wangaratta, Benalla, Mansfield, Yarrawonga and Shepparton told how inflexible and resource deprived state government education and health services were failing their children.
Parents, educators and health professionals said those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD):
• were not being adequately catered for in many mainstream schools because of insufficient resources and teachers lacking understanding/skills to cater to their special needs;
• were dropping out of school early, while others were having to be taught at home because schools couldn't cope with their behavioral difficulties;
• couldn't get into special need schools because their IQ was above 70, even though they had other intellectual disabilities; and
• were missing out on critical health services, such as speech, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, because they aren't accessible publicly due to insufficient resources or geographic isolation.
Several Wangaratta parents told how they had privately funded a professional from the USA to visit and establish a home-based early intervention education program, where their ASD children could learn to read and write.
"The idea was to give them a head start for school, which was successful, but then we were ruled ineligble for government assistance because the children were coping,” a parent told the meeting.
"We were discriminated against by the public system because we had forked out our own money and a great deal of time to help our kids.”
One parent said she feared her child may commit suicide because of the stresses he endured at a public school, which didn't seem to understand his special needs.
The summit was also told that diagnosis of ASD was a problem and health professionals needed to be better educated for diagnosis and treatment.
Liberal Shadow Minister for Education Victor Perton said it was clear from the summit, and feedback elsewhere across the state, there is an endemic crisis which needs to be addressed in a bi-partisan manner.
Mr Perton, together with Shadow Minister for Health, David Davis, and Wendy Lovell (MLG North Eastern Province) said after the meeting, they would seek Labor Party and National Party support for a parliamentary inquiry.
Autism Victoria president Dr Lawrie Bartak said ASD was a very complicated thing to deal with, given the wide ranging conditions and the fact most, but not all, with ASD also had some form of intellectual
He said around one per cent of the population was now suffering from some form of ASD, yet state government resources fell well short of matching this prevalence.
Wangaratta Lions Club committee member Eddie Flynn, who was at the meeting, said the club was keen to continue to do its part to help local families with autistic children, with another public meeting scheduled for September 11.