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A plea for some real political action for children with disabilities

So many issues haven’t made it on to the election radar. Indigenous health, rural and remote health, preventative health…and the list goes on.

While there has been some talk of improving services for children with a disability, Bob Buckley, Convenor of Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia, would like to see far more action.

He writes:

“Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott raised services for children with a disability in the election campaign but their promises must be practical to win my vote.

My focus is on children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), a group whose numbers have more than doubled every 5 years over 20 years. If ASD numbers continue doubling, in 5 years ASD will outnumber intellectual disability and in 10 years every class will include a student with ASD.

ASD are mostly severe disorders. A survey in 2003 found 87% of people with ASD have severe disability. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in its report on The burden of disease and injury in Australia 2003 ranked autism 2nd (following asthma) for boys aged 0-14 years, 8th for girls and 15th for men (the male to female ratio for autism diagnosis is 4:1).

The significance of ASD is not reflected in planning, spending or staff training in the health sector.

Research shows:

  • children with disabilities benefit from treatment and rehabilitation (or early intervention); and
  • many students with a disability need clinical support in school.

Children with ASD miss out on many essential services. The Health Department says a child with ASD need 20+ hours per week of intense autism-specific early intervention over 2+ years (see http://tinyurl.com/3ygtzcr).

Currently, Government’s Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) model funds 5% of the early intervention that children need. Better service models can meet more needs with the same resources.

Government should get clinicians to supervise support workers to deliver therapy for a child with ASD. Supervised support workers can provide most of a child’s early intervention at no extra cost.

Without this approach, Labor cannot deliver its election promise of $12,000 of early intervention for many more children with a disability. Nor could the Liberals use $20K per student to improve clinical services in schools.

Australian Governments pride themselves in having signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (which provides children’s right to treatment, rehabilitation and education), and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but they refuse to legislate rights for children. Australian governments protect their power to minimise services for children with disabilities.

Australia’s health and education systems deny children the treatment, rehabilitation and education that they need for a fair go in life. Children who get a cochlea implant do not get the required follow up. Schools exclude students with behavioural pathologies, thereby denying them effective education and equitable prospects for employment and/or independent living. This is a national disgrace.

Parties need to commit to:

  • ensuring children with a disability have Rights under Australian law to treatment, rehabilitation and education;
  • properly locate treatment and rehabilitation for people’s disabilities in Health;
  • train the clinician workforce needed to deliver services for children with a disability;
  • create a practical treatment and rehabilitation model for children with a disability; and
  • improve disability services in schools, including clinical services for students with behavioural pathologies.”

• This is an edited version of a longer article which can be downloaded at http://a4.org.au/a4/sites/default/files/Opinion20100731.pdf or http://a4.org.au/a4/node/263

• Update, 9 Aug: Shakira Hussein, who has “remitting-relapsing multiple sclerosis” writes at Crikey’s blog, The Stump, on disability and the election.

Comments 5

  1. tran says:

    Having a most gifted and intelligant adult Son with an ASD .. I’d like to offer a few small comments on this article .

    The efforts of all in health care regarding early intevention is exceptional

    What happens a little later in life is that infant becomes a young child and in time an adult,the chance to access any sort of help through these years in the health system just isn’t there.

    My most vivid recollection of the utter contempt govts in general have for those with a disability came with a form from centrelink .. to determine if the child has a disability (our son was in receipt of around $20 a week ) at the time which helped with some pretty basic needs towards his disability, wearing out shoes , endlessly, etc… all the questions were aimed at an infant , IE child can watch block fall to floor..well yes hes 14 years old .. run that mentality through two pages ..sorry payment revoked.. this small bit of cash was never an issue for us ,the mean
    and delibrate intention to strip a little help to those in need though beggers belief.

    Chalk it up to sound ecenomic management of the previous govt or waste of the next .. that 900 bucks could be better spent Imo were there arn’t many votes, my bet is that won’t ever change whosoevers sorry arse gets themselves elected.

    tran

  2. Fiona says:

    *likes*

    we need therapists in schools, attached to early intervention playgroups and preschools. We need therapists (speech pathologists, occupational therapists and psychologists) providing training and support to parents, teachers and aides who carry out the daily interventions with children with ASD, add in Physiotherapists for those kids with physical disabilities such as CP.

    While any money is welcome for therapies, fragmenting so that parents have $6000 to spend in a calendar year, rather than grouping the money to provide adequate public services for these children is just short sighted.

  3. Fiona says:

    On cochlear implants and CP – wh are we relying on charities to provide these services such as the Shepherd and Spastic Centres?

  4. Au secours says:

    An item on tv news about 2 weeks ago told the story of the insurance payment to thalidomide victims in Australia. I was shocked to see an older man in a wheel chair born with no arms saying he was going to use his money to have his eyes done ( I guess lasered) so that he could see properly because he couldn’t he wear glasses as he has no arms.
    WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS COUNTRY that he has not been able to have this done before?? What an indictment of our society. This man should get all the assistance he requires.

  5. Jennifer Doggett says:

    I completely agree. Anyone who knows a family where one or more children have a disability knows how little support they get in comparison to what is needed. It’s not just about spending more money (although we need to do that as well) but also about listening to parents and to the children themselves to find out where best the resources can be allocated. So often money gets tied up in bureaucratic and administratively complex programs which don’t target the people who really need them. Giving consumers more autonomy over funding for their disability and the flexibility to direct resources where they will deliver the greatest benefit will help ensure that we get the best outcomes for this important and neglected group.

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Croakey Conference News Service 2013 – 2019
2013 conferences
Australian Centre for Health Services Innovation Forum 2013
Australian Health Promotion Association Conference 2013
Closing the Credibility Gap 2013
CRANAplus Conference 2013
FASD Conference 2013
Health Workforce Australia 2013
International Health Literacy Network Conference 2013
NACCHO Summit 2013
National Rural Health Conference 2013
Oceania EcoHealth Symposium 2013
PHAA conference 2013
2014 conferences
#IPCHIV14
AIDA Conference 2014
Congress Lowitja 2014
CRANAplus conference 2014
Cultural Solutions - Healing Foundation forum 2014
Lowitja Institute Continuous Quality Improvement conference 2014
National Suicide Prevention Conference 2014
Racism and children/youth health symposium 2014
Rural & Remote Health Scientific Symposium 2014
2015 conferences
#CPHCEforum
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Population Health Congress 2015
2016 conferences
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#ATSISPEP
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#cphce2016
#CPHCEforum16
#CRANAplus2016
#IAMRA2016
#LowitjaConf2016
#PreventObesity16
#TowardsRecovery
#VMIAC16
#WearablesCEH
#WICC2016
2017 conferences