According to the Australian bureaux of statistics, there were approximately 125,000 people affected by ASD, or autism spectrum disorder in Australia in the year 2009. To define this figure, this can be broken down to one in 160 for 6-12 year aged children. The point must be made however, that this figure is speculative, given the varying degrees of ASD, and what symptoms are manifest in an individual child. Yet, instances of diagnosis are increasing on an annual level in this country, a fact that is creating concern for medical authorities.
The basis for diagnosis for ASD in Australia is reflected upon the American Psychologists Association recent revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. So, as in the United States, an Australian child is assessed for ASD according to given indicators. For instance, lacking of verbal skills at a given age, an inability to interact or socialise with parents or social peers, unable to remain focused on a single given task, etc.
The treatment for this condition in Australia again reflects the American approach. For example, early intervention with a child affected with this condition is crucial for lessening of disorder factors-symptoms. Government bodies both on a local and federal level do provide funding for agencies that provide advice and resources for parents and health workers alike. In 2008, the Australian Federal Government introduced the helping children with autism package, supported by funding of over $190 million over four years. A major component of this package allows children who are diagnosed with ASD before the age of six, access to $12,000 worth of early intervention processes for two years. This excellent strategy reflects a growing degree of understanding and acceptance of those affected by ASD.
However, gaps in this program were identified and addressed in 2010. For example: A lack of tailored ASD programs in Australia, a need for a transition process that supports families from diagnosis into therapy, a need for detailed information which is localised and personalised, and the need for case management for each individual child affected by this condition.
Whilst government processes have created a greater access to highly needed treatment and support programs, there is still a sense of social stigma attached to any mental illness, in this instanced autism, in Australia. Those affected are to a degree still socially isolated and marginalised. It takes public education to challenge and lessen negative social attitudes. With the previously mentioned government processed making treatment more accessible, a greater degree of social acceptance is slowly becoming manifest in Australian society; as it is assumed, would be the case in any modern western nation.
Geoff Dodson is talented and published writer of creative fiction and non-fiction. He gained effective research skills gained from his university studies in West Australia. Geoff is the parent of a teenage boy with autism.