Media Releases

Autism Support a Lottery of Labels

Figures show that diagnoses of Autism have tripled over the past five years. But Dignity for Disability says the increase in South Australia is not solely due to a higher prevalence of the condition itself, but a lack of support for conditions which fall outside of the diagnostic label of ASD.
Dignity for Disability MLC Kelly Vincent says families often push professionals to give their child a diagnosis of Autism because people who may exhibit many of the same symptoms as people diagnosed with Autism are not automatically eligible for the same supports because they are given a slightly different diagnostic label.
“My office has been contacted by a number of people who say their children manifest many of the same major support needs as someone formally diagnosed with Autism, including learning difficulties, and a lack of basic communication and social skills,” said Ms Vincent, “yet they are not eligible for the same government supports such as the Helping Children with Autism Package if they are diagnosed with conditions like language disorders, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.”
Ms Vincent said it is unjust and illogical that supports are offered on the basis of labels, rather than on a basis of evident need.
“This is especially true for young children whose development can be greatly disadvantaged by the absence of appropriate, timely supports. If a child exhibits below average literacy skills for their age group, would we accept that their teacher couldn’t give them the extra help they need until that child is formally diagnosed with Dyslexia?”
Ms Vincent said there is an additional problem with the Helping Children with Autism Package in that children are only eligible to receive funding under it until the age of seven.
“This means that if a child is diagnosed shortly before they turn seven, families will not be able to reap the full potential benefits, and the funding may be used ineffectively. Also, if someone is diagnosed later in life, they are not eligible at all. This is why Dignity for Disability calls on the State Government to ensure that time limits for Early Intervention funding are set from the date at which the person is diagnosed; not set by a chronological age.”
Ms Vincent added that a needs-based system is required right across the disability sector.
“There is much talk that the incoming National Disability Insurance Scheme will operate on a needs-based basis, but the eligibility for that scheme is still unclear, and the scheme will not be fully operational until at least 2018. the State Government must not fob off its responsibilities because of the NDIS.”
Dignity for Disability Party President Rick Neagle, whose son has Autism, said ‘doctor shopping’ for medical professionals who will diagnose the patient with Autism puts unnecessary financial and emotional strain on families, and that more options are needed for people with Autism and similar conditions.
” Dignity for Disability has long been lobbying the State Government to construct a ‘one stop shop’ Autism Early Intervention Unit similar to the AEIOU centres in Queensland, where families area able to pool their funding to ensure their child gets proven, effective treatment in a centralised location. ” he said. “These new figures show that the time for Labor to listen to the immediate needs of people with Autism and their families is now.”
Call Kelly Vincent: 0434 231 698 ;
Rick Neagle: 0431 704 074