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South Australia launches $14.8 million early autism support program for infants

South Australian families to get early support for babies through new nation-leading autism program.

Up to 1,300 South Australian families with infants showing early signs of autism are set to benefit from a new and innovative autism support program called “Inklings.”

This initiative is made possible through a joint investment by the federal and state governments, demonstrating their commitment to early intervention and support for families facing autism-related challenges.

“The Albanese Government’s investment of $8.4 million will provide support that is based on evidence and best practice,” Federal Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth says.

“This pilot is not intended to ‘fix’ kids with neurodiversity, it’s about improving parents’ communication with their babies and making sure they have access to the best family-based supports.

“We know that the early years, particularly the first five years of a child’s life and is critical to later wellbeing. Proactively focusing on care and intervention in this early period is proven to have a huge effect on a child’s life.”

The Inklings program is designed to provide crucial assistance to parents and caregivers in understanding the needs of infants between the ages of six to 18 months who exhibit early signs of autism.

By empowering families with knowledge and skills, the program aims to improve the overall support and well-being of these children.

One unique aspect of the Inklings program is its use of short videos featuring parents interacting with their babies. These videos help parents gain a deeper understanding of their child’s thoughts and feelings, the various ways that babies communicate, the significance of interaction, and the importance of following their baby’s focus of interest. By incorporating practical, hands-on approaches, the program seeks to create a nurturing environment for the infants and enhance their developmental outcomes.

“We know the first 1000 days of child’s life help set the course for the rest of their life,” Premier Peter Malinauskas says.

“That’s why we had a Royal Commission, and why we’re delivering on another of its key recommendations.”

The South Australian Government, in partnership with the Telethon Kids Institute, will be responsible for delivering this $14.8 million pilot program across various regions. These regions include Northern Adelaide, Adelaide metro, as well as the Lower Eyre and Far North areas, encompassing both regional and remote parts of the state.

The inception of the Inklings program was strongly recommended by the Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care in South Australia, highlighting the program’s significance in addressing the needs of infants at risk of autism at an early stage.

Crucially, the program will prioritise families from First Nations backgrounds, those with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and those from low-socioeconomic communities. By ensuring accessibility and inclusivity, the program aims to bridge gaps and provide equal opportunities for all families in need.

Furthermore, it is worth noting that a second pre-emptive early intervention pilot will be announced later in 2024, demonstrating the ongoing commitment of the Albanese and Malinauskas Governments to support families and children with autism.

The Inklings program promises to be a beacon of hope for South Australian families, providing invaluable support to infants with early signs of autism. By investing in early intervention, the program paves the way for a brighter and more inclusive future for these children, their families, and the entire community.

“South Australia is committed to becoming the Autistic Inclusive State and working together with the Albanese Labor Government has enabled us to help build a pilot that will build knowledge and change lives,” South Australian Assistant Minister for Autism Emily Bourke says.

“We have already begun a range of nation leading initiatives across our state, including in our schools and government agencies to build knowledge of autism and help improve outcomes for autistic people of all ages.

“The Inklings pilot builds on this work, using the research available to make real changes and by working with parents to give babies and children the best possible start to life.”

For more information about The Inklings program, head here.

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