News by Region

No link between autism and MMR, affirms major study

Danish research again dispels link with vaccine at a time of surging measles cases globally


The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine does not cause autism, according to a major study carried out in an attempt to reassure growing numbers of vaccination-doubters, as measles outbreaks surge.

Doubts about MMR were sown by the gastroenterologist Andrew Wakefield, who hypothesised in 1998 that it was linked to autism. The symptoms of the condition often begin to manifest at about the time the jab is given, between 12 and 15 months old.

What's Next for Autistic Adults?

John Elder Robison

We don't know, because most autistic adults are unrecognized and unsupported.

Reading the news, the prognosis for autistic adults looks like a very mixed bag. On one hand are hopeful stories about Project Search, Autism at Work, and Neurodiversity in school. Those accounts portray autistic people as loyal, kind, eager to work, and wanting to make a meaningful contribution. Employers talk about superior attention to detail and exceptional caring about quality and correctness.

Then there are the downsides. One study found that autistic people are nine times more likely to die of suicide. An autism website says 80% of autistic adults are unemployed. Autistics are far more vulnerable to diabetes, anxiety, obesity, depression and a host of other serious medical problems. Most autistic adults never get married, and if they do, it doesn’t last. 

State support grows for disability inquiry

Daniel McCulloch

SCOTT Morrison expects to secure terms of reference and state agreement for a royal commission into the disability sector before the federal election in May.

The prime minister predicts state and territory governments will come on board "within days", saying it is imperative they are involved.

"To not have those jurisdictions subject to the royal commission, I think, would impair it overwhelmingly," he said on Wednesday.

NDIS on agenda at disability inquiry

Max Koslowski

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is likely to be scrutinised by a sweeping royal commission into the abuse of people with disabilities, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison hinting the probe could be as big as the landmark $373 million inquiry into child sex abuse.

The Age revealed yesterday that Mr Morrison had written to state and territory leaders calling for a joint royal commission in what will be the sixth judicial probe in Australia in as many years.

Scott Morrison poised to order royal commission into abuse of people with a disability

Amy Greenbank

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has written to the states and territories asking for their support in establishing a joint inquiry into abuse in the disabled sector.

New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have confirmed they are behind the probe, but a formal announcement is not expected until Mr Morrison hears back from the other leaders.

Federal Cabinet discussed establishing a royal commission on Tuesday night.

Toxic parenting myths make life harder for people with autism. That must change.

Sara Luterman

This summer, my parents celebrated their 33rd anniversary at Chef’s Restaurant in Buffalo with pasta doused in marinara sauce. Over a plastic gingham tablecloth, they quietly reaffirmed their commitment. Their relationship is remarkable and inspiring by any standard. But according to many in the autism world, including professionals who should know better, its endurance marks it as some sort of mythical unicorn, made all the more inspiring by the fact that it survived me. 

Death rates in people on the autism spectrum twice those of the general population: new research

Isabelle Dubach

People on the autism spectrum have elevated mortality across the lifespan – their overall comparative mortality rate is about twice that of the general population, a new study reveals.

The comparative mortality of people with autism spectrum disorder is twice that of the general population, an Australian-first study by a UNSW PhD student and her supervisors has found. The researchers call for a whole of health and disability systems response to this issue to improve outcomes for this group.

People with autism dying at twice rate of general population: new study

Kate Aubusson

People with autism spectrum disorder are dying at twice the rate of the general population, a landmark Australian study published on Tuesday has found.

The biggest cause of death is injury or poisoning from suicide, self-harm or accident, the University of NSW analysis involving the records of almost 36,000 people with the disorder in NSW showed.

NI: Autism diagnoses children up by more than 100%

John Monaghan

The number of children being diagnosed with autism in Northern Ireland has more than doubled in five years.

Some health trusts have seen a three-fold increase and there are also 2,500 under-18s still waiting to be assessed.

Healthcare professionals and autism charities have pointed to increased awareness as a reason for the jump.

Kerry Boyd, the head of Autism NI, said her organisation is "inundated" with requests for support.

Ricky Stuart Foundation looks to open third centre across the border

Lachlan Roberts

The Ricky Stuart Foundation is looking to open a third respite centre for people with autism and other disabilities across the ACT border in Queanbeyan.

Having already established two respite houses – the Ricky Stuart House in Chifley and the Emma Ruby House in Cook, Canberra Raider’s coach Ricky Stuart is now hoping to establish the same service in his town of birth.

‘We just want to help kids’: Calls every teacher to receive autism training

Ben Fordham

The amount of students with a disability in schools is on the rise and teachers aren’t properly trained to handle the increase.

Autism rates across NSW schools are climbing 15 per cent each year, but only nine per cent of teachers are equipped to support them.

University of Newcastle lecturer David Roy helped to develop a new disability scheme and calls for all teachers to be properly trained.

“We just want to help kids,” he says.

Autism support groups warn of looming national high school crisis

Autism support groups have warned of an impending national crisis, as growing numbers of children diagnosed with autism reach high school age, with few options for specialised education and public schools with a dramatic shortage of trained staff.


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Finding the right school for a child with autism can be difficult and frustrating for parents, and it's even harder when students reach high school.

Some families resort to home-schooling or teenagers may drop out altogether.

NSW schools face 'unprecedented' levels of disability

Jordan Baker

Schools in NSW are facing "unprecedented pressure" due to soaring disability rates, with the number of students with autism increasing by almost 15 per cent per year and those with mental health needs growing by more than five per cent.

Yet there are fewer staff trained to support them as the number of special education graduates fall and more than half of teachers admit to a lack of confidence in the area.

Coalition government must commit to a royal commission into violence & abuse of people with disability

Media release

The Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO) commends the Senate for approving the motion last Thursday, from Green’s Senator Jordon Steele-John, to establish a Royal Commission (RC) into violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect of people with disability in institutional and wider community settings across Australia.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten personally pledged his and the ALP’s commitment to a Royal Commission back in 2017, which we also commend. This has been followed up with an election promise of $26 million to get the Commission going; the ALP also supported the recent Senate motion along with others from the crossbench.

Why schools desperately need a royal commission into the abuse of disabled people

David Roy, University of Newcastle

On Monday, the federal parliament agreed on a motion to support a royal commission into the abuse of disabled people. This is a good thing, but we still need a timeline, terms of reference and a whole lot more detail.

This commission has been a long time coming. The stories we’ve heard over the last few years in the media have been devastating, such as a child with a disability being stripped naked and locked in a closet. We can expect the stories that will be revealed over the course of this royal commission to be similarly hard to hear.

What defines ‘success’ for autism treatments?

What makes a successful autism treatment depends on whom you ask. A researcher may judge a treatment based on the results of a clinical trial or on the outcome measure chosen. For an autistic person, the best measure of success might be an improvement in quality of life. To others, no ‘treatment’ makes sense for autism’s core features.

To get a glimpse of such disparate perspectives, we asked three researchers and two autistic people to tell us what a successful autism therapy looks like to them.

The Experts:

Autistic awesomeness

Angie Tomlinson

Work goes beyond financial independence. It often goes to the heart of a sense of satisfaction, self-worth and the ability to contribute to the community. It can be key to our well being.

Just as it applies to you or me, it is exactly the same for the one in 100 people with autism spectrum disorder.

Recognising the importance of employing those on the spectrum, and the benefits a neurodiverse workforce can offer, has never been more important as an increasing number of young adults diagnosed with ASD hit the job market.

Reaching for the stars

Angie Tomlinson

Jacinta Reynolds is a terrible liar and a master storyteller. She has a science degree, majoring in physics and specialising in astrophysics. She also happens to have autism.

While her autism has seen her struggle with social behaviour, it has also been the 23-year-old’s not-so-secret weapon in excelling first at Scitech as a science communicator and today at West Perth software development company Optika Solutions as a data scientist and technical writer.


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