Taxpayer funds for cult DVD on autism

Rick Morton

An instructor in a “socially harmful cult” sold taxpayer-funded DVDs to parents that said autistic children could see spirits and illnesses from past lives, with the permission of the federal Department of Social Services, which was warned more than four years ago that the material was dangerous.

The Australian has obtained copies of emails sent in August 2014 to the department about Tanya Curtis and her Gold Coast-based “behaviour specialist” organisati­on Fabic, which is an approved provider receiving taxpayer subsidies under the federal government’s Helping Children with Autism package.

The Hunter's first high school tailored for children with autism is being built

Meg Francis

The Hunter’s first high school tailored for children with autism is anticipated to open its doors early next year.

For prominent developer Hilton Grugeon, the new facility will fill the gap for older students with autism in the Hunter region.

Mr Grugeon was one of the driving forces in establishing the Thornton-based Hunter Aspect School (primary) in 2011 – donating land, labour and building materials. 

Social stigma contributes to poor mental health in the autistic community

University of Surrey

Stress related to social stigma may be the reason why autistic people experience more mental health problems than the general population, dispelling past theories that the condition itself is the origin of such distress.

In the first study of its kind, published in the Journal of Society and Mental Health, researchers from the University of Surrey and University College London examined how stress related to social stigma, such as discrimination and rejection, impacts on the mental health of autistic people.

Joel's journey inspires at living with autism forum

Heidi Kraak

Thirty-two year old Joel Wilson's story is perhaps not very different from a lot of other people, but that, he says, is why it is an important story to tell.

Diagnosed with aspergers, now acknowledged as part of the autism spectrum disorder, as a teenager, Mr Wilson shared his life story at an autism forum in Traralgon recently to show young people with autism in the community and their families that an autism diagnosis does not preclude someone from a "normal life".

Millennials on the autism spectrum plug tech skills gap at DXC

Yolanda Redrup

IT services company DXC Technology is making headway in plugging the tech skills gap by tapping into a talent pool often neglected by employers, hiring people on the autism spectrum.

Since 2015, the New York Stock Exchange-listed company that employs 10,000 people in Australia has been running a three-year training project called the Dandelion Programme and has hired 80 people to take on a variety of tech roles.

DXC Technology Australia and New Zealand managing director Seelan Nayagam told The Australian Financial Review the program had been particularly successful in helping young people on the spectrum take on jobs in cyber security, data analytics and software testing.

Elderly therapy horse helps teen girl with autism

Simon Galletta

An elderly horse is helping a teenage girl in far-west New South Wales overcome her autism.

Rachel Kellie, 15, has been receiving equine therapy at the Murray River border town of Buronga, near Mildura, for more than a year.

"Whenever I'm around Psalm, I'm a lot calmer and a lot more courageous than I would normally be," Rachel said.

"When I'm not around horses, there's just a lot of things I never say."

But after a session with Psalm, Rachel's mother notices the change in her daughter.

Children's book says stop teasing kids with autism

Isabel Bird

A Tasmanian mother is hoping to promote social acceptance of autism with a picture book that teaches children and their parents about autism.

Katt Strachan has written Poppi Lou is Different which features Poppi, her nine-year-old daughter who is on the autism spectrum.

Ms Strachan said she started writing the book after Poppi came home from school sad and upset because other children did not want to play with her. 

New national guideline provides ‘very clear process’ for diagnosis of autism

Amanda Lyons

GP and autism advocate Dr James Best believes the guideline will prove helpful for patients, their families, and the GPs and other clinicians conducting assessments.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is not uncommon in Australia, and diagnoses are on the rise – about 164,000 people across the country have ASD, a 79% increase* from 2009.

The autistic teenager making video games to show players what Asperger's is really like

Donal Sheil

A young, autistic game developer has showcased his innovative new project at Australia's largest gaming convention, as part of an exhibit putting diversity centre-stage.

Inspired by his experiences living with autism, Bradley Hennessey's experimental game, An Aspie Life allows players to experience life with Asperger's.

In addition to entertainment, Mr Hennessey said the power of video games to enhance empathy with others is undervalued.

"Really, games can do anything," he said.

DAD... a film about autism and fatherhood

Available to watch online now!

DAD... a film about autism and fatherhood is now available to watch online! We're thrilled to share our short documentary with you all! We hope it helps dads (and mums) navigating the world of autism and parenting. Whether you're new to this or have been in it for a while, there are so many powerful messages from these twelve incredible dads that you need to hear. So please watch, share, send us your reviews... and most importantly remember, you are part of a bigger “fraternity of parents who are wonderful”

Bank mistrust runs deep, Autism spectrum applicants plug skills gaps

Four in five Australians believe banks don’t act ethically, the inaugural Deloitte Trust Index – Banking 2018 IPSOS poll (paywall) has found. The poll showed three in four Australians thought banks didn’t keep their promises to customers and found people from different political persuasions, classes and genders all had a similarly dim view of banking ethics.

Expecting autistic people to 'fit in' is cruel and unproductive; value us for our strengths

Peter Sun San Wong

Just 16% of adults with autism are in full-time paid employment, and this situation is not improving. The Economist has described this as “a tragic toll, as millions of people live idle and isolated outside the world of work”.

When people with autism do get a job, they face bullying, discrimination and isolation in the workplace.

I know the harsh reality from personal experience. Who better to research and write about productivity and employment outcomes than someone who has experienced autism and 40 years of competitive employment?

Autism psychologist ‘once ran New Age cult’

Rick Morton

A Queensland psychologist ­accused of once leading a New Age cult which promised paying clients the ability to “move between ­dimensions” has been working as an approved provider of a federal autism program since 2015.

Natasha Lakaev — who ran courses through a program called Universal Knowledge from a Northern NSW property known as Omaroo in the early 2000s — once claimed to be a “metaphysician” who could heal HIV and other diseases and later retrained as a psychologist.

'Getting in early': WA to trial Australian-first autism program

Autism appears in about one per cent of children but because its rarely spotted before the age of three many don't get the early intervention work that could greatly improve their development down the track.

In an Australian first trial to begin next year a team of WA researchers hope to change that and fill a gap for autism early-intervention services.

The natural science behind applied behaviour analysis

While most likely best-known among the public as a treatment for autism, the field of behaviour analysis has far-reaching beneficial applications. Unfortunately, however, it’s often portrayed in the media in a negative light, focusing on inaccurate stereotypes regarding punishment and control.

So, what exactly does it involve?

Behaviour analysis is a natural science approach to understanding behaviour, learning, language and cognition. As a science, it’s conceptually similar to the disciplines of psychology, biology, chemistry and medical science.

New autism guidelines aim to improve diagnostics and access to services

Andrew Whitehouse, University of Western Australia

You can’t test for autism with a simple blood test or scan, which can make the diagnostic process difficult and dependent on the skill and experience of the clinician.

New Australian autism guidelines, released today, aim to provide a nationally consistent and rigorous standard for how children and adults are assessed and diagnosed with autism, bringing to an end the different processes that currently exist across the country.

Caution Needed Over Autism Diagnosis Guidelines

Maggie Coggan

Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher announced the release of a national standard for diagnosing autism on Tuesday, and said it would vastly improve the consistency of diagnosis of people with autism.

“This guideline brings greater clarity to the way autism is diagnosed – that’s good news for the families of people undergoing assessment,” Fletcher said.    

New autism test faces scrutiny

Rick Morton

A Coalition plan to introduce a new national guideline for autism diagnoses will further raise demand for clinical assessments that already cost thousands of dollars and could end up dis­advantaging children if they are not implemented properly, an ­expert has warned.


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