News/Announcements

Rain Man made autistic people visible. But it also entrenched a myth

Thirty years on, the ‘autistic savant’ portrayed by Dustin Hoffman still represents most people’s idea of autism

After Rain Man was released on 16 December 1988, the whole world knew what “autistic savant” meant. Despite spending years in development hell, and test screenings fostering tepid and confused responses, Rain Man was a runaway success. It swept the Oscars, winning best picture, best original screenplay, best director and best actor for Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Raymond Babbitt.

With a limited on-screen presence, autistic characters have emerged in another medium: fan fiction

Jonathan Alexander and Rebecca Black

In one Harry Potter fan fiction story, Hermione Granger anxiously awaits the results from a recent test.

It isn’t her performance on an exam in a potions course that she’s concerned about. Instead, the higher-ups at Hogwarts had ordered she undergo some psychological tests. They had noticed how quickly she talked, along with her nervous tics.

Australian National Phenome Centre: new facility could find autism prevention

Kate Campbell

Forms of autism could be “completely prevented” by an “experimental workshop for the world” setting up in Perth’s southern suburbs.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, new head of the Australian National Phenome Centre at Fiona Stanley Hospital’s Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, said the revolutionary work could stop some children becoming autistic.

Letter: Our health: Don't forget low-functioning autistic people, please

Congratulations, Clem Bastow. Finally, at the age of 36, you received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (The Age, 12/12). You had spent your life wondering why you were the way you were and felt the way you did and, no doubt, were filled with frustrations and other negative feelings.

What I find concerning about autism diagnosis in cases such as yours – and which are currently being talked about so much – is that people in general seem to believe most autistic people are high functioning and can live productive lives.

I was diagnosed as on the spectrum at 36, suddenly things made sense

There have been only a handful of times in my life where I felt truly “seen”: one was my first visit to San Diego Comic-Con, and the other was my diagnosis, at 36, of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

After a lifetime of feeling distinctly different, I was so thrilled to finally have answers that I half hoped the consulting psychologist delivering my results might tack a “congratulations” on to their assessment.

Clem Bastow knew she felt different, but it took until the age of 36 that she got a diagnosis.Credit:Kristoffer Paulsen

Psychologist accused of assaulting student with autism tried to calm boy, court told

Phil Hickey

An educator says she was left "disturbed" by a conversation she had with a school psychologist who is on trial accused of assaulting a young student with autism.

The boy was 12 when the alleged assault happened at the school.

Agni Angelkovska, 50, is on trial in the Perth Magistrates Court accused of slapping the male student and throwing a cup of water at him at Christ Church Grammar School in 2014.

Are Children Severely Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder Underrepresented in Treatment Studies? An Analysis of the Literature

Abstract

Despite significant advances in autism research, experts have noted that children severely affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear to have been understudied. Rigorous analysis of this observation has been limited, and the representation of severity has not been well-described. We assessed three domains of severity (communication ability, cognitive functioning, and adaptive functioning) in 367 treatment studies of children with ASD published 1991–2013. We found that the proportion of studies that included the severely affected population decreased significantly over time, as well as wide variability in measurement and reporting. Inadequate representation of the full autism spectrum in the literature could lead to an unbalanced picture of ASD and leave behind those with arguably the greatest need.

Joint Media Release: NDIS delivers increased pricing to support people with complex needs

People with disability with complex support needs are set to benefit from improved support under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher today announced new pricing arrangements under the $22 billion scheme. 

“The pricing increase recognises that people with complex needs require higher levels of skilled supports in their NDIS plans,” Mr Fletcher said.

World first Australian app to transform learning for children with autism: ‘We went through seven swim schools’

Gemma Bath

Zeke Harvey, 9, used to hate the beach. As a child with autism - the sounds, glare and movement were a sensory overload.

He spent most of last year’s nippers season distressed and upset next to a bin in the beach carpark.

If you saw him now, you wouldn’t think it was the same boy.

Sensitive Santa a gift to children with autism in Perth

Children with autism will be given the opportunity to meet with Santa away from the noisy crowds this Christmas to ensure their wish list makes it to the North Pole.

Ocean Keys Shopping Centre has had a quiet word to the elves and has organised Father Christmas to meet with children on the autism spectrum in a calm, quiet environment.

People on the autism spectrum can find noisy and crowded places unduly stressful, making Christmas crowds particularly difficult.

Staffing boost for young autistic man confined to a dingy room

Daile Cross

The young Perth man confined to a dingy bedroom in a Department of Communities house will be allocated an extra staff member to support him during the night.

Yesterday Karen Parkinson told how her son Reece, who has autism spectrum disorder and some very challenging and sometimes destructive behaviours, spends most of his time locked in a bedroom with two mattresses on the floor and an ice-cream container for a toilet. His window is boarded up, and there are four locks on the door.

As a parent of two kids with autism, I've learned how much attitudes have changed

Cathy Pryor

The realisation that my son Lucien saw the world in a different light came slowly, but there were small clues along the way.

Once, when asked to describe the colour of a banana, he answered white, not yellow. (When you think about it, he could well be right: while the skin is yellow, the flesh is much paler than that.)

And then there was the endearing way he followed the squares on a rug when he was learning to walk.

USA: One in 40 U.S. Kids Could Have Autism, Says a New Study. Here's Why That Figure Is Already a Matter of Debate

By Brittany Shoot

One in every 40 children in the United States could have autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a new article published in the journal Pediatrics.

By contrast, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the estimate at one in 59 children having ASD nationwide.

The true number of children with autism in the U.S. may be somewhere in the middle. And the reason for that discrepancy may have to do with how the data was collected. The study published in Pediatrics relied on numbers from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health, which is based on reporting from 50,000 parents of children ages 17 and under.

Young children with autism can thrive in mainstream childcare

Kristelle Hudry, La Trobe University and Cathy Bent, La Trobe University

Much of the research about including children with autism in mainstream classrooms is focused on school-aged children. Growing numbers of children with autism are diagnosed in toddlerhood, so there is increasing relevance for the early-childhood sector. Our new research shows, with support, educators can effectively include and teach children on the spectrum in mainstream childcare, alongside their non-autistic peers.

Programs to support learning in key areas - language, cognition and independence skills - have been found to be effective for many children with autism. But we need options that are also affordable and accessible within children’s local communities. Many families ferry children around to appointments with different professionals, employ therapists to come into the home, or travel long distances to specialist centres.

National Disability Insurance Scheme builds on Helping Children with Autism success

As Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) celebrates its 10th anniversary, providers and families are looking to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) to continue the important work started by the program.

HCWA was introduced by the Australian Government in 2008 to help families access crucial early intervention services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Since its introduction, HCWA has helped almost 53,000 children and their families with more than $550 million in early intervention services including social learning intervention, behaviour management, occupational therapy, speech pathology and cognitive and learning skills.

Why early diagnosis of autism should lead to early intervention

Research suggests children can be reliably diagnosed with autism before the age of two. It also shows that many of the behavioural symptoms of autism are present before the age of one.

These behaviours include decreased interest in social interaction, delayed development of speech and intentional communication, a lack of age-appropriate sound development, and unusual visual fixations.

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