Minister for Human Services
Autism Support
22 September, 2015


Mr SHELTON question to MINISTER for HUMAN SERVICES, Mrs PETRUSMA

[10.52 a.m.]

Can the Minister outline how the Hodgman Liberal Government is improving support for people, especially children, living with autism?

ANSWER

Madam Speaker, this Government is providing a significant investment of $1 million over four years to develop a long term strategy for improved care for people living with autism spectrum disorder, or ASD.  We are committed to ensuring that all Tasmanians living with ASD have every opportunity to be supported, to reach their goals and their full potential.The work being undertaken through our election commitment will change the lives of Tasmanians living with ASD.  Last year we established the Autism Advisory Panel made up of prominent leaders in the Tasmanian autism community.  This panel brings together extensive expertise in diagnosis, intervention and therapies.  This Government, with the support of the Autism Advisory Panel, has also undertaken significant work to ensure Tasmania is at the forefront of autism support and research in Australia.

 

The first task of the Autism Advisory Panel was to bring about the introduction of Re-think Autism and this work is now well underway.  Rethink Autism is an innovative web-based program which is based on applied behaviour analysis, or ABA, and I am proud to say that Tasmania is the first state to introduce this program.

 

Throughout term 2 the Autism Advisory Panel, the DHHS and the Department of Education have worked with the Rethink Autism team to begin the rollout of the program through selected schools and individuals who have shown interest in this program.  A professional coach experienced in autism therapies has been employed to assist in the roll out and extensive training has begun.  The schools selected so far include the Autism Satellite Learning Centre at Lindisfarne North Primary School, which was established by my colleague, the minister for Education, Jeremy Rockliff, to meet the specific needs of students with ASD.  Other schools are Mountain Heights District School, Waverley Primary School, Clarence High School – which will also transition re-think autism with students through to college – and the Early Childhood Intervention Service South.

 

Rethink Autism will be initially delivered to 60 participants with a diagnosis of ASD across the state and will provide individually tailored support programs that can be delivered in a variety of settings, including the home, childcare centres and schools.  After the initial rollout of Rethink Autism, an evaluation process carried out by the University of Tasmania will occur so that the outcomes for children using the program can be reviewed so as to identify any changes that may need to be made before further rollout occurs.

 

Tasmania has also been selected to be involved in the Social Attention and Communication Surveillance – or SACS – research project with Dr Lyndsay Quarmby from the University of Tasmania which will allow for SACS training of child health nurses and other allied health professionals across the state.  SACS involves early identification and monitoring of autism in infants and toddlers during baby checks in community-based settings.  This project assists in identifying and diagnosing ASD in children earlier and enabling them to receive intervention in their early and most important years.

 

The Autism Advisory Panel is also in negotiations with the National Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder, otherwise known as the Autism CRC, on becoming an essential participant.  This is an exciting step forward in ensuring Tasmania is involved in groundbreaking research.  Autism CRC is the world’s first national cooperative research effort focused on autism.  It is a groundbreaking research collaboration that brings together the finest ASD professionals, organisations and the autism community.

 

The establishment of the Autism Advisory Panel, the partnership with the Autism CRC, along with the investment in the autism-specific satellite unit and Rethink Autism will assist us in addressing the growing prevalence of ASD as well as improving the support systems available to individuals with ASD, especially children and their families.