‘First step’ to improve lives of autistic Australians

A helping hand to start a business and sensory-friendly public spaces are some of the ways the federal government hopes to better the lives of hundreds of thousands of autistic Australians.

Unveiling a draft version of its national strategy, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth welcomed further feedback on its contents before making any firm commitments.

The final strategy and first action plan will be released by the end of the year.

“The draft strategy draws on key goals identified during consultation with the autistic community and sector, including boosting social and economic inclusion, and strengthening supports and services, including for diagnosis,” she said.

Four key outcome areas have been identified: social inclusion; economic inclusion; diagnosis, services and support; and health and mental health.

More than 205,000 Australians have autism and many experience lower life expectancy than non-autistic people, particularly if they have a co-occurring medical condition.

Many more are yet to receive a formal diagnosis, with the report identifying a range of difficulties with the process, including lengthy delays and high costs.

“Access to neurodiversity-affirming early screening and supports, and timely and comprehensive autism identification assessment and diagnosis, means an individual will be better able to access supports and services, improving long-term outcomes and reducing risk of developing mental health concerns,” the report states.

The draft report offers a range of suggestions to improve the experience of diagnosis, including developing a standardised set of training materials to support relevant professionals.

The federal government has worked alongside the National Autism Strategy Oversight Council to develop the draft strategy.

“This is the first step in a longer journey towards better lives for Autistic people,” co-chair of the Oversight Council Clare Gibellini said.

“There should be no policy developed that impacts our lives, without us having a seat and an equal voice at the table.”


Poppy Johnston
(Australian Associated Press)



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