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Loving Lucy

Parenting can be tough—even when your child is considered so-called ‘normal’. Nine-year-old Lucy looks like a curly haired angel, but she's often strangely manipulative and physically violent. Her mum and dad are still searching for a diagnosis which could make sense of her extreme behaviour. But their patience and love for Lucy is extraordinary.

The Concept of Neurodiversity Is Dividing the Autism Community

Simon Baron-Cohen

    It remains controversial—but it doesn't have to be

    At the annual meeting of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR) in Montreal, Canada, this week, one topic likely to be widely debated is the concept of neurodiversity. It is dividing the autism community, but it doesn’t have to.

    The term “neurodiversity” gained popular currency in recent years but was first used by Judy Singer, an Australian social scientist, herself autistic, and first appeared in print in the Atlantic in 1998.

    Ballarat musician Jack Stacey is breaking the perceived limits of autism

    Rochelle Kirkham

    Young Ballarat musician Jack Stacey is changing perceptions of autism and setting an example to others to live beyond their 'limits'.

    At four-years-old Jack was diagnosed with autism, a lifelong developmental condition that affects how an individual relates to their environment and interacts with other people.

    In search of truce in the autism wars

    The fight between those who define autism as a medical condition and those who see it as a mere difference has reached vitriolic levels. Can the two sides come together to support all autistic people?

    Earlier this year, London’s Southwark Playhouse announced the cast of a new play, “All in a Row.” It was instantly clear this would not be a typical family drama. The play unfolds the night before social services separates a boy named Laurence from his family. Unlike the other three characters, Laurence, a nonverbal autistic and sometimes aggressive 11-year-old, would be portrayed by a child-size puppet.

    Families need guidance before buying a communication app for autism

    Cathy Binger

    Many children with autism have little to no functional speech, and their families are often desperate to help them communicate.

    In today’s connected society, these families are likely to hear about a variety of communication apps — some specifically targeted at children with autism — available for mobile devices, including iPads. Often the advertisement includes a video of a child who starts communicating using the app’s voice output, effortlessly asking for a cup of juice or saying, for the first time, “I love you.”

    Greta Thunberg teaches us about autism as much as climate change

    Greta Thunberg speaking

    The young environmental activist has shown that being different is a gift. But too many people with autism still face cruel treatment

    Greta Thunberg is an impressive individual. Just 16 years old, she has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize after sparking environmental protests around the planet. There is a glorious simplicity to her arguments that makes them hard to refute. What, she asked, was the point of pupils like her learning anything if politicians ignored the glaring facts on climate change? So she sat down outside the Swedish parliament with a hand-painted banner declaring a school strike – and eight months later, is a global icon who has helped to fire up a resurgent green movement.

    New autism prevalence stats spotlight challenge of early diagnosis

    The prevalence of autism in 4-year-old children in the United States has increased — from about 1 in 75 children in 2010 to 1 in 59 in 2014 — to match a previously reported rise in 8-year-old children, according to data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1.

    But children are still being evaluated for autism or other developmental conditions later than is ideal, the data suggest.

    The trend highlights how difficult it is to diagnose autism in young children, experts say; early diagnosis is important so that children can be treated early.

    'I can't change what happened to Matty': family of disabled man sues state over rape

    Jewel Topsfield

    When Maria Thomas was told her autistic son had been raped in the bathroom of his group home the missing piece of a ghastly puzzle fell into place.

    Ms Thomas had been haunted by a change in her son Matthew’s behaviour but because he is non-verbal she couldn’t work out what had happened.

    Study identifies predictors of early death among autistic people

     

    People with autism who avoid social interactions or have troubles with daily living skills — from using a toilet to preparing meals — are at increased risk of an early death, a new study suggests1.

    Autistic people are more than twice as likely as those in the general population to die prematurely. They are also at increased risk for a range of health conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, that can be fatal.

    The new study is the first to identify the specific factors that forecast mortality in autism. The researchers followed 406 autistic people in the United States over a 20-year period. They found that the 26 people who died during the study tended to have poor scores on measures of social ability or daily-living skills at the start of the study irrespective of age or health.

    ‘Ready to try anything’: Parents say education is failing autistic kids

    Pippa Bradshaw

    Parents of children with autism have called for an overhaul to an education system they say is failing their kids.

    Mum Kristy is at her wits' end trying to get help for her 13-year-old daughter.

    "She just goes crazy," Kristy said.

    "It can start off by just being silly, she gets quite hyper, silly, and then she can get abusive verbally. From there she can get physical."

    Mum Kristy is at her wits' end trying to get help for her daughter. (A Current Affair)

    Hobart high school 'cage' for teenagers with autism 'akin to Risdon jail'

    Rhiana Whitson

    A lockable fenced play area for teenagers with autism at a Hobart high school has been described as a "cage" by the parent of one student, who said it risked "taking away from their humanity".

    Key points:

    • The play area is part of the Department of Education's flexible learning program
    • A disability advocate says "the system is letting us down"
    • A Government spokesman said medical professionals, "including paediatricians, psychologists" and OTs were consulted about the fenced area

    Autistic Australians are being locked out of the workforce, study finds

    Of unemployed people with autism, 54% surveyed said they had never held a job despite wanting to

    Australians living with autism are being locked out of the workforce, while some of those who found paid employment say they have previously lost a job because they are on the spectrum, new research claims.

    A study commissioned by autism peak body Amaze, and described as an Australian-first by its authors, surveyed the employment experiences of those living with autism and their carers, as well as attitudes towards autistic people in the workforce.

    Senate motion for a National Disability Strategy

    Following representation by the Australian Autism Alliance, Senators Griff (Centre Alliance) and Brown (Labor) moved the following motion in the Australian Senate. Hansard records that the Senate passed the motion on 2/4/2019.

    Senator GRIFF (South Australia) (16:44): I wish to inform the chamber that Senator Brown will also sponsor this motion. I, and also on behalf of Senator Brown, move:

    That the Senate—

    (a) notes that:

       (i) in 2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that there were 164,000 Australians with an autism diagnosis and a prevalence rate of 2.8% for those aged between 5-14 years (around 81,000 children), though this does not reflect the large numbers of autistic adults who remain undiagnosed,

    NDIS - another massive rort: Bernardi

    Editorial: nearly one year ago, the Conservatives claimed the NDIS is a rort. While it may not be what they meant, the Government is rorting the NDIS: instead of providing the support that autistic Australians needs, the Commonwealth Government is sucking revenue back from autistic people on the NDIS into its coffers to fund it's paper-thin budget surplus. Senator Bernardi mentions families of autistic children specifically.

    Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi is warning that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is already being rorted.

    Keeping autistic children safe around water is vital to saving lives, and we can all help

    Fiona Churchman

    My son Patch loves water. He races from the edge of the sand straight into the ocean every time we visit the beach. He'll spend hours in the pool, any pool, swimming from side to side or just floating on his back, calm and content. It's a joy to watch.

    Patch's love of water is common among children on the autism spectrum. But I recently learnt the stats around childhood drowning and autism, and they're terrifying.

    Drowning is the leading cause of death among children with autism spectrum disorder.

    Australia adopts standards for autism diagnosis, to mixed reviews

     

    Australia has become the latest country to establish guidelines for diagnosing autism, with the goal of making diagnoses consistent nationwide.

    Clinicians typically diagnose autism using criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the International Classification of Diseases. The new guidelines do not replace or reform these criteria; rather, they outline a framework for assessing behaviors and determining whether an individual meets the criteria.

    Autism Open Day aims to create ‘a better future’ for people on spectrum

    Researchers from Curtin University and the Telethon Kids Institute will explore the strengths and skills that can help build a better future for people living on the spectrum at this year’s Autism Open Day.

    Adults and children with autism, their families and the wider community are invited to attend the free annual event, which will include presentations from autistic adults and information on current research and programs aiming to support people with autism.

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