TV has come a long way in depicting characters with autism, but not far enough

Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper in the Big Bang Theory. 

Darren Devlyn, Fiona Sharkie

It's time to forget Dustin Hoffman's Oscar-winning role in Rain Man and embrace the more nuanced depictions of autism in recent TV shows.

For too long, Dustin Hoffman's Oscar-winning portrayal of Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man was the only touchstone many of us had for autism.

While Hoffman's performance was met with resounding applause, a consequence of the movie's success was that it created an autism trope that the movie and TV industries were loath to shake.

Canberra families may relinquish children amid NDIS funding shortfalls

Sherryn Groch

Young Canberrans with high needs could be locked out of respite care by Christmas unless a last-minute solution is found to "critical" funding shortfalls under the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

As families warn they will be forced to surrender care of their children without the regular break of respite, advocates are calling for an urgent intervention in the territory to address the "market failure" of services.

New autism diagnosis guidelines miss the mark on how best to help children with developmental problems

The first national guidelines for diagnosing autism were released for public consultation last week. The report by research group Autism CRC was commissioned and funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in October 2016.

The NDIS has taken over the running of federal government early intervention programs that provide specialist services for families and children with disabilities. In doing so, they have inherited the problem of diagnostic variability. Biological diagnoses are definable. The genetic condition fragile X xyndrome, for instance, which causes intellectual disability and development problems, can be diagnosed using a blood test.

Autism diagnosis, by contrast, is imprecise. It’s based on a child’s behaviour and function at a point in time, benchmarked against age expectations and comprising multiple simultaneous components. Complexity and imprecision arise at each stage, implicit to the condition as well as the process. So, it makes sense the NDIS requested an objective approach to autism diagnosis.

Autistic boy in Sydney’s west is attacked by a group of thugs

AN AUTISTIC teen victim of a savage assault at a Sydney shopping mall has a simple, but shocking, answer when asked why he was targeted by the thugs.

SHOCKING video has emerged of a young autistic boy being savagely bashed by a gang of youths at a busy Sydney mall.

The 15-year-old boy is seen on the video standing with his head down as he types a message on his mobile phone. One of the youths shoulders him and causes him to stumble, while others in the gang stand around and watch. And film the encounter.

Autism Queensland: Mum fights Brisbane Boys’ College over expulsion

Vanda Carson & Emmaline Stigwood

A BRISBANE mother is fighting for her autistic son’s right to an education in a landmark discrimination case.

This week single mum Sherri Gullickson, from Norman Park, lost her battle to have son Jonathan, 7, return to class at the elite Brisbane Boys College’, which boasts it has several students in a state-of-the-art autism spectrum disorder program.

Jonathan began in Year 2 at the school in January but was expelled on August 29 for “biting and hitting” classmates in separate incidents on August 9 and August 14.

Autism guide aims to set national mark

Rick Morton

The first set of national standards governing the diagnosis of autism was released yesterday for public consultation, part of a years-long plan to eradicate big variances in methods and rates of the condition.

Lead researcher Andrew Whitehouse said he hoped the guidelines would be adopted nat­ionwide to standardise diagnostic methods and that one day they would become mandated.

Almost a third of autistic people have special abilities

Nance Haxton

Up to three times more people with autism have special talents or "savant" abilities than previously thought.

Researchers from Autism Spectrum Australia have found that identifying and nurturing that special talent at an early age is crucial in ultimately helping people with autism find a meaningful job later in life.

Changing employers' perceptions of autism from focussing on the deficits to the advantages of being on the spectrum is also key.

Open day features info on autism

The open day will provide insight into AEIOU's autism-specific program.

FAMILIES and carers are encouraged to attend an open day at AEIOU Bundaberg on Friday, September 29, to see first-hand how early intervention is changing the lives of children with autism.

The open day will provide insight into AEIOU's autism-specific program and is a prime opportunity to meet qualified staff, learn about evidence-based early intervention and ask questions.

Attendees are also invited to participate in a free introductory workshop on understanding challenging behaviours.

Insight into uni study for autistic

Dr Kimberley McMahon-Coeman and Dr Kim Draisma will host a lecture
on university study for students on the autism spectrum.

A free lecture discussing university for those on the autism spectrum is taking place next week.

The University of Wollongong Bega campus is hosting a presentation by Kimberley McMahon-Coeman and Kim Draisma, who both have extensive experience working with university students on the spectrum. 

They will offer insight into the challenges of autism in the classroom, how students can manage the transition to uni and establish successful study patterns.

The lecture is open to the public and suitable for students on the autism spectrum, their families and other teachers.

John Butler Primary College red faced after six year-old with autism leaves school, walks 1km before being found

Peta Rasdien

An incident during which a six year-old autistic boy left school and walked a kilometre away before he was found by a community member has left his parents distressed and demanding answers.

John Butler Primary College principal Brett Lewis said there was no excuse for the ‘deeply regrettable’ incident.

Autism: Queensland schools still expelling children despite review

mum and son

Emmaline Stigwood

QUEENSLAND students with a disability are still being suspended and excluded from schools in huge numbers, despite a landmark review recommending urgent changes.

Six months after a probe revealed poor outcomes and high suspension rates, parents have spoken to The Sunday Mail about the ongoing reality of life in classrooms for their kids.

They claim the system is still failing children, with schools refusing entry and medical opinions ignored.

School exclusion ‘linked to long-term mental health problems’ – study

Jamie Doward

Research shows that exclusions can amplify pupils’ psychological distress and encourage behaviour it intends to punish.

Excluding children from school may lead to long-term psychiatric problems and psychological distress, a major new study has shown.

The research by the University of Exeter also finds that poor mental health can lead to school exclusion.

Disabled victims of abuse in school ‘failed’ by education department

Kelly Fellows with daughter Maddison (age 6 years)

Kelly Fellowes from Penrith pictured with daughter Maddison, 6,
who has autism. Picture: David Swift

NSW schools are failing to report horrific cases of abuse against disabled and special needs students, as a parliamentary inquiry yesterday heard the state had “failed these kids”.

One advocacy group has called for a royal commission following the revelation of several shocking alleged incidents­ in which children were tied to chairs by their ankles, locked in cupboards or beaten with sticks by their teachers.

NSW schools using restraints and isolation against guidelines, Ombudsman finds

students at their lockers

A new Ombudsman's report finds that the use of isolation, physical restraints
and suspension or expulsion for students with behavioural problems is
prevalent in NSW schools. Photo: Tamara Voninski TVZ

Pallavi Singhal

A primary school student with autism was restrained by teachers and locked in a time-out room for more than an hour, during which time the student wrapped an electrical cord around their neck, a NSW Ombudsman's report reveals.

A teacher standing outside the room ignored the student during the isolation, despite instructions that the student was not to be restrained and was to be checked on after three minutes if placed in time-out.

Australia's first Men's Shed for dads with children with autism opens in Brisbane

Tucked away on Brisbane's southside, a group of small sheds is giving men with children on the autism spectrum a place to meet, socialise and support each other.

South Brisbane Men's Shed is the first in Australia to have a special interest group for dads, brothers, uncles and grandfathers of children with autism.

In partnership with the Department of Education and Training Autism Hub, the shed allows men to get together once a week to gain information, but also to relax around people experiencing similar circumstances at home.

Canberra teens who threatened, attempted to rob autistic boy get good behaviour orders

Elizabeth Byrne

Two Canberra teenagers are free on good behaviour orders after using a toy gun to try to rob a boy who has autism earlier this year.

During the attack in May the 17-year-olds pushed the boy up against a wall outside a Canberra supermarket using the gun to demand he hand over his wallet.

The pair fled empty-handed when the boy refused to cooperate.


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