A SMALL centre for autistic children on Brisbane's northside may have won a visit from Kevin Rudd in a charity auction, but the Prime Minister showed yesterday that he is highly sensitive to autism in the broader community.
Mr Rudd yesterday morning met staff and students during a visit to the AEIOU Centre for Children with Autism at Bray Park, which won the prime ministerial visit as a prize at a charity auction.
After the visit, Mr Rudd said figures presented to him at the centre showed that each year there were about 2000 children born in Australia with an autism disorder. He said the government was providing help in two ways, the first of which was that $190million had been committed in a previous budget to assist families with an autistic member.
He said the second was the construction of half-a-dozen autism-specific early childhood centres around the country.
"One of these is being constructed at Griffith University here in Brisbane, and we're discussing with AEIOU how we can expand those services in the future," he said.
"We haven't reached any conclusions on that but, the truth is 2000 kids a year is a big impact on families. The gap is large. How do we intelligently close it?
"That's why we're talking to experts in the field."
The Prime Minister has a personal but low-key connection with autism, as his wife Therese Rein revealed at a Brisbane lunch earlier this year that her brother had suffered from autism but had been helped a great deal by the sensitivity of her parents to his condition.
She said that his behaviour as a two-year-old was "terrifying for a parent", but because he had been sensitively handled he is now married with children and has a full-time job.
Brisbane's Courier-Mail newspaper ran a report on Ms Rein's speech but was contacted by the Prime Minister's office, who asked it to drop the story and offered an exclusive interview with the Prime Minister's wife, but the story had already been published in the newspaper's country edition.