No respite for mothers caring for children with a disability

Peter Barrett

Any mother of a pre-school age child knows that life can be intense. There's the bathing, feeding, toiletting, playing, comforting, trips to emergency, more comforting – not to mention the constant funk of niggling sleep deprivation. In most families, though, this phase of life eventually passes.

But for mothers who care for children with a disability, the job is unrelenting.  In Australia, one in 12 children have a disability and in 95 per cent of cases, the mother is the primary carer.

Compulsions, anxiety replace autism in some children


Most children who lose their autism diagnosis develop related psychiatric conditions, according to a new study1. The findings suggest that doctors should continue to monitor children once diagnosed with autism.

An estimated 9 percent of children with autism achieve a so-called ‘optimal outcome.’ But nearly all of these children years later develop related conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, the new study suggests.

Perth mental health experts call for closure of seclusion rooms

MENTAL health experts are calling for an end to the use of seclusion rooms at WA hospitals as it emerged one child was locked up for 12 hours.

A report by WA’s chief psychiatrist Nathan Gibson shows children with mental health problems were routinely locked up and restrained last year.

In a five-month period, there were 40 seclusion episodes for 20 children, with 75 per cent involving girls. Ten kids were held for less than an hour, 11 for up to two hours and fewer than five patients were held for an average seven hours.



For decades, the autism community has known that autism affects the entire family. Biological parents have been included in autism studies to examine where genetic mutations come from, but always with an eye for understanding the affected individual. This year in research saw a much bigger focus on family members of those with autism, particularly siblings. The goal of these studies is to understand the genetic and biological nature of autism so that help can be provided not just to those with a diagnosis, but to family members.

Many studies focused on what is known as the broader autism phenotype, previously explored in biological parents. The broader autism phenotype refers to some behavioral features of autism, including those in emotion, language, and social skills that do not meet the level of a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Rather, they have been termed anything from “intermediate” autism to “a hint of autism.” Joe Piven and James Harris hypothesized this year that Bruno Bettleheim may have tragically misinterpreted these features, in the absence of a true understanding of autism, as “refrigerator mothers.” Clinicians have urged scientists to note these symptoms in a way that does not create a new diagnostic category and noting certain social, personality and language characteristics in family members has been crucial for nailing down the underlying biology.

A different way of thinking

Words by Mark White, Pictures by Nick Cubbin and Damien Pleming

What if the world stopped seeing autism as abnormal? Many people with Asperger's syndrome or autism embrace their condition. They seek respect for 'neurodiversity', not a cure.

How to dispute a Centrelink debt

A4 editor: The following is not specifically about autism or disability ... it is here to help/inform any autistic adults who are having issues with Centrelink's cruel new system for scamming/fabricating debts from the most vulnerable.

Sally WhyteJournalist

Does Centrelink think you owe money that you don't think you owe? Here is what to do next.

Centrelink’s new automatic debt generation computer system is generating 20,000 debt notices a week, despite more and more stories emerging about obvious problems with the system.

Autism: 'hidden pool' of undiagnosed mothers with condition emerging

Experts report growing phenomenon of women recognising themselves as they research their children’s disorders

A “hidden pool” of women who have grown up with undiagnosed autism is coming to light as mothers researching their children’s spectrum disorders recognise themselves in their findings.

Children on autism spectrum disorder 'cusp' missing out on early intervention, says child psychologist

Kate Hill

A Naracoorte child psychologist says children on the cusp of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may be missing out on vital early treatment because parents or educators may not realise a child needs specialist intervention.

"The earlier the detection, the better the outcome," said Lana-Joy Durik, one of only two psychologists who specialise in early childhood intervention operating in South Australia's south-east.

Call for autism diagnosis overhaul


Patchy services and a lack of national guidelines are delaying the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder in children, leading to poorer outcomes, the AMA says.

Australia has fallen behind comparable countries in the timely diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with the condition being picked up at a mean age of about six instead of the ideal age of two.

Tackling autism diagnosis on a national level

Iliana Grosse-Buening

The NDIA and Autism CRC are creating a national guideline for autism diagnosis to address delayed diagnoses and other issues rife across state health systems.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition characterised by behavioural differences in children, but autism diagnosis is far from straightforward.

Now, the Cooperative Research Centre for Autism Diagnosis (Autism CRC) and the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) have joined forces to implement a national guideline for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Underpaid disabled workers to claim compensation from Government after Federal Court win

Ten thousand disabled workers who were underpaid at government-funded workshops across the country will be able to claim compensation from the Commonwealth, following a Federal Court ruling.

Law firm Maurice Blackburn led a representative class action, after the productivity tool used to determine what wages employees at Australian Disability Enterprises received was found to be discriminatory.

UK: Schools struggle as autism diagnoses rise 25 per cent

Schools are “struggling” to provide for autistic pupils following a 25 per cent increase in autism diagnoses in the past four years, according to government data and local area inspection letters.

The first published inspections of councils’ “local offers” for special education needs and disability (SEND) provision warn of rising autism referrals and lengthy waits – with a nearly 40 per cent increase in pupils with autism statements since 2012 in one area.

UK: Airports urged to do more to assist travellers with autism, dementia and mental health issues

 Soo Kim, travel writer 

Airports in Britain are being urged to provide better support for passengers with “hidden disabilities” under new guidelines issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

The new guidance, developed in collaboration with various disability organisations, was issued last week in a bid to help reduce stress and anxiety for passengers with conditions including dementia, autism, mental health problems, hearing loss, visual impairment and mobility issues when travelling through an airport or onboard an aircraft.

The controversy over autism’s most common therapy

Applied behavioral analysis is the most widely used therapy for autism, but some people say its drills and routines are cruel, and its aims misguided.


When Lisa Quinones-Fontanez’s son Norrin was diagnosed with autism at age 2, she and her husband did what most parents in their position do — they scrambled to form a plan to help their child.

Autism diagnosis in Australia lagging years behind other countries


Australian children are missing out on vital early treatment for autism spectrum disorder because of a lag in diagnosis, according to the Australian Medical Association.

Key points:

  • Autism diagnosis in Australia often occurs three to four years later than recommended
  • The AMA say slow diagnosis means Australian children are missing out on vital early treatment
  • Part of the problem comes down to a lack of specialists

The AMA said the ideal age for diagnosing children with the disorder is two but in Australia it often does not occur until a child is five or six years old.

AMA: Early diagnosis and intervention essential for children with ASD

The AMA today called for coordinated action to speed up the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children, and to provide early intervention therapies to give children with ASD the best outcomes possible.

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, also called on the Federal Government to rule out any future narrowing of the eligibility requirements for people with ASD to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).


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