South Australia leads nation in school-based Autism assessments

The South Australian government is initiating a pilot program aimed at facilitating greater access to autism assessments for students residing in Adelaide.

South Australia continues to lead the nation in providing effective support for individuals with autism. The Malinauskas Labor Government has released a tender worth $330,000 to initiate autism assessments for up to 100 eligible school students free of cost.

This innovative service aims to break down common obstacles such as cost, wait times and discomfort in unfamiliar clinical environments. The assessments can be conducted on school grounds, providing a more comfortable environment for the students.

The service is geared towards students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, students in Northern Adelaide that are at risk of disengaging from education, and those currently awaiting assessment through the public system. The Autistic-led Office for Autism, in partnership with the Department for Education, has designed the tender and invites eligible organisations to apply.

The program will run for a minimum of 25 months and will start referring children and young people for assessment from June 2024.

This latest initiative further strengthens the state’s ongoing commitment to supporting Autistic individuals. It compliments the highly successful Autism Inclusion Teacher program, in which the State Government invested $28.8 million to provide access to an Autism Inclusion Teacher in every public primary school, from Reception to Year 12.

This tender is a response to feedback from Autism Inclusion Teachers in schools and the broader Autistic and autism communities. It also aligns with the formal launch of the State’s First Autism Inclusion Charter, delivered by the Malinauskas Labor Government.

The Autism Inclusion Charter presents four guiding principles to underpin a cross-government approach to improve life outcomes for Autistic people. It aims to foster a more knowledgeable and inclusive state where Autistic individuals and autism communities can thrive with support, connection, and belonging.

Premier Peter Malinauskas remarked, “When we welcome diversity, and notably neurodiversity and different ways of thinking, we optimise our potential for innovation and progress.” He further highlighted that bringing autism diagnosticians into schools and implementing a holistic government Autism Inclusion Charter reflected the government’s commitment to enhancing life outcomes for the Autistic and Autism Communities.

Assistant Minister to the Premier Emily Bourke applauded the scheme: “In a first, we’re launching a whole-of-government approach through an Autism Inclusion Charter… getting to a clinic for an autism assessment can be tough for families. This pilot will help streamline the process by removing barriers like cost, travel and waitlists.”

Autism, a neurological difference in how individuals experience and respond to the world around them, is characterised by a spectrum of experiences. It is diagnosed based on criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by qualified clinicians, using information from a range of people.

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