Autism study shows early intervention helping children in regional areas

The centre behind an successful early intervention program for autistic children in Tasmania's north-west hopes to expand its services to other parts of the state.

University research has found children at the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in Burnie have experienced big improvements.

Data collected from 98 children over four years showed most had improved in behaviour, communication, language development and motor skills.

The centre has been running for the last six years and is the only regional autistic learning centre in Australia.

Colleen Cheek from the University of Tasmania's Rural Clinical School said the study showed outcomes for children with autism were improving.

"One of the probably more important or notable features of the research was that socialisation skills were quite high or well improved," she said.

The outcomes were similar in a satellite service offered through childcare centres in Devonport, Smithton and King Island.

"This is important because it shows that mainstream day care centres in little rural towns that don't have full access to services are able to deliver early intervention for children if they're supported," Ms Cheek said.

Amanda Gunders' four-year-old son Roy has been attending the centre for 18 months.

"Since he's been attending ... he has gone from not being able to communicate his basic needs - so he was quite frustrated - and now we are developing his conversational skills and he has just gone in leaps and bounds," she said.

Centre 'changed our lives'

The Gunders family has decided to stay in the north-west to be closer to the centre.

"They've changed our lives, we're a lot less frustrated," she said.

"He's now able to communicate, he's socially interacting with other kids, we're very proud of the progress that he's made."

The study's co-author and the centre's manager, Kathryn Fordyce, said early intervention was the key.

"We see less challenging behaviours because they're able to communicate instead of perhaps biting or hitting or some of the other things, when you can't communicate that's the best you've got," she said.

Work is now underway on the next step of the project which focuses on delivering early intervention in mainstream childcare centres.

from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-30/autism-learning-centre-study-shows...