A panel of autism experts commissioned to advise the National Disability Insurance Agency on the condition has recommended children with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis receive at least 20 hours a week of early intervention, delivered either one-to-one or in a small group.
In a report to be released on Friday, the panel, which comprised a range of academics, teachers and advocates, backed the best practice intervention for young children, which can cost up to $80,000 a year.
The NDIA, which is implementing the National Disability Insurance Scheme, considered the findings of the panel in forming its approach to early intervention for children with developmental disorders who will take part in the scheme.
National Disability Insurance Agency chief executive David Bowen. Photo: Graham Tidy
In its paper, which will also be released on Friday, the NDIA did not put a dollar figure on the cost of early intervention for autism or Asperger's syndrome but has previously estimated the price at between $16,000 and $18,000 a year.
Chief executive of the NDIA, David Bowen, said a number of different reports into the effectiveness of early intervention were examined in forming its approach.
"The aim is to tailor a support package specific to a child's individual needs using the best practice and best evidence," he said. "There is no one size fits all therapy package for children with spectrum disorders as their needs vary considerably."
He said some children will need minimal assistance while others will need significant intervention and their packages will reflect their needs.
Autism and related disorders are the most common disability across trial sites for the NDIS, comprising about one-third of support packages. The $22 billion dollar scheme will roll out nationally from July this year.
The NDIA will ask early childhood intervention experts to work with the agency to tailor NDIS packages for recipients and it will track outcomes in what Mr Bowen describes as the "first nationally consistent approach" to early intervention services.
Bob Buckley, convener of Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (A4) and a member of the expert panel which advised the NDIA, accused the agency of ignoring its recommendations.
"I fail to see how their early intervention approach connects with the research we have undertaken or indeed any research into early intervention and autism," he said.
Mr Buckley said best practice intervention costs between $40,000-$80,000 a year but "every dollar you spend in the early stages saves dollars in later life".
Fiona Sharkie, chief executive of autism advocacy group Amaze, was not part of the panel but supported its recommendations of a minimum of 20 hours of therapy a week.
She said the success of the NDIA's approach to delivering support packages would depend heavily on the expertise and experience of the services assigned to advising families.