As yet there is no sign that governments in Australia even recognise the particularly bad outcomes reported for people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). A4 says, so far the parts of governments in Australia that are responsible for treatment, rehabilitation, education, etc. just ignore reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) that people with ASD have especially poor education, employment and disability support outcomes.
The ABS online 4428.0 - Autism in Australia, 2009 report says:
- Children with autism need a high level of support to attend school, with 41% needing a counsellor or disability support person and 51% requiring special tuition. Of those children with autism attending school, 24% did not receive any additional support (excluding attending a special school or attending special classes in mainstream schools).
- 88% [of students with ASD] ... experience some restrictions, 3% of children were not able to attend school because of their disability and 47% needed to attend either a special class in a mainstream school, or a special school.
- Of people with autism who had finished school, 77% had not completed a post-school qualification. This is well above the rate for both the rest of the population with disability and people with no disability.
- In 2009, the labour force participation rate for people with autism was 34%. This compares with 54% labour force participation rate for people with disabilities and 83% for people without disabilities.
- Of people with autism, 74% reported having a profound or severe core activity limitation (that is, they need help or supervision with at least one of the following three activities - mobility, communication or self-care).
- 68% of people with autism reported having a profound or severe communication restriction, meaning they either cannot understand or be understood by others at all, or has some difficulty being understood or understanding others (it may be they communicate more effectively using sign language or some other non-verbal form of communication).
- 63% of people with autism having a profound or severe mobility restriction. To have a profound or severe mobility restriction the person either needs help or supervision to move around.
- The 2009 SDAC showed an estimated 64,600 Australians had autism. This is an increase of 34,200 from the 2003 SDAC, or more than double the prevalence identified in 2003.
Numerous reports show outcomes generally for Australians with a disability are already disappointing/embarrassing, such as
- SHUT OUT: The Experience of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia
- Productivity Commission's Disability Care and Support
- Australia: poor ranking on disability ... includes Australian PwD experiencing by far the worst poverty in the OECD.
Bureaucrats, academics and advocates in funded disability peak bodies are inclined to claim (without actual evidence) that the increasing number of people diagnosed with ASD (more than doubled from 2003 to 2009, growth that is seen around the world over at least two decades) is due largely to diagnosing mild (lower-level) disability. These reports from the ABS are strong evidence they are wrong ... that ASD is mostly severe or profound disability and that people with ASD experience substantially worse outcomes than PwD generally.
The ABS reports must not be ignored. They show that governments in Australia need better policies and service for people with ASD.
Unfortunately, few children with ASD can access the early intervention they need to prepare them for education. Commonwealth Government funds about 5% of the intensive ASD-specific early intervention the Health Department advises they need (see brochure (PDF 706K)). Despite the National Disability Agreement, few states/territories make any recognisable attempt at credible early intervention for ASD.
The ABS report shows students with ASD cannot access the services and support they need in school. Students with ASD are frequently bullied and excluded from school. And few students with ASD succeed in tertiary education.
Almost half the people diagnosed with ASD are diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder. This means they do not have an intellectual disability. Relatively few people with ASD have a physical disability. People with ASD are very keen to work. Many people with ASD are effective workers if they get a job with appropriate support. Clearly, the barriers to employment of people with ASD in Australia are employers' HR practices and the lack of appropriate supports (government's responsibility). Notice that Australia's top 100 companies employ very few PwD, and they also want the Disability Support Pension "reviewed" (code for cut, see Business Council of Australia gives simplistic and morally bankrupt advice) ... which would make our "by far worst poverty in the OECD" outcome even worse.
The Commonwealth Government does not support any national peak body for people with ASD ... so the ASD community is largely unrecognised and has little or no voice in mental health and disability policy. Without vigorous input to policy development, Government ignores the significant and distinct needs of people with ASD. The particularly poor outcomes described above are a natural consequence of this lack of input to policy; the dismal outcomes for people with ASD should not surprise anyone.