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Autism Awaits Awareness in the ACT

By bobb - 20 March 2011 9

In the ACT, people with autism spectrum disorders await Government awareness and recognition of their unmet need for appropriate disability services.

Recently, Autism Asperger ACT raised concerns that ACT Government officials wrote “autism is not a mental illness”. Mr Buckley, Chair of the association’s Political Action Group, asked “If officials think autism spectrum disorders are not mental illness, then which part of the body do they think is affected? Where in the health system do we look for treatment and rehabilitation?”

In 2010, the Chief Minister got ACT Health Department officials to contact the association but, after a brief exchange with ACT Mental Health officials, communication quickly ceased. “The brief exchange went nowhere” Mr Buckley said.

The ACT Government must recognise that autism spectrum disorders need serious attention. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported that 2003 data showed autism was second highest burden of disease and injury for boys in Australia. Nationally, the number of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders rose from 13,200 in 1998 to 30,400 in 2003, then to 53,530 in 2009 (from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers). The data also show most of these people have severe or profound disability. There are increasing numbers of people including adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, diagnoses that by definition recognise severe and pervasive disability. People with autism spectrum disorders need appropriate services.

People are disappointed that the ACT Health Minister did not consult Autism Asperger ACT on her draft ACT Charter of Rights for Mental Health Consumers (see http://www.chiefminister.act.gov.au/media.php?v=10437) or ask the views of this relevant community group.

Autism Asperger ACT wrote to the Health Minister asking whether the ACT Government has changed its position on the relationship of autism to mental health. The Association asked whether the ACT Government was interested in input about the draft charter from a group that could in the future represent a significant consumer group. The Government did not respond.

The consultation closing date is looming. Autism Asperger ACT sent a response hoping the ACT Government will consider its views (see http://autismaspergeract.com.au/node/208).

The ACT Government appears unaware of the difficulty an organisation of people with autism spectrum disorders and their carers have in addressing community consultations such as this. While the Government funds other “consumer” organisations, it does not help Autism Asperger ACT respond to the barrage of ACT Government inquiries and community consultations that relate to people with autism spectrum disorders.

The number of people with autism spectrum disorders has increased substantially over the last two decades. The ACT Government has not ensured its services and staff are keeping pace with demand for autism-specific services. Despite repeated efforts from Autism Asperger ACT, the ACT Government has not consulted with the substantial local knowledge and expertise.

“The ACT Government needs to recognise and address the substantial unmet needs of people with autism spectrum disorders in the ACT for essential services”, Mr Buckley said.

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9 Responses to
Autism Awaits Awareness in the ACT
Trad_and_Anon 9:49 am 14 Jun 11

It depends on what you mean by “Illness”. I am sure there is a technical definition somewhere, may by by the World Health Organization or the United Nations or the US Centers for Disease Control. It seems to me that an illness is something one contracts and does not originally have. as I understand it, Autism . Aspergers is something one is born with. It is a disability and an impairment, but it is not an illness in the way a cold or influenza is; or in the way a mental illness such as bi-polar is. A person always has autism and Aspergers. However, a person develops bipolar. So, on this line of reasoning, bipolar is an illness; autism and Aspergers is not. It does not make it any the less a disability and any the less deserving of assistance and therapy and so on.
Given the number of people who have autism and Aspergrs – including three of my own family – more assistance is required, specifically in terms of tailored services. It is really a side show to argue over whether this condition is an illness or not and takes focus off the main game: obtaining more services. The ACT government should provide funding to this community group on the same basis as it does to the long recognised disabilities, such as hearing and sight impaired or other disabilities groups.

Inappropriate 9:07 am 23 Mar 11

Regardless of the semantics of ASDs classification, it still falls under the umbrella of mental health.

But in general, mental health services are lacking: try and find a decent psychiatrist who’ll treat Adult ADHD – once you’re done with your pediatrician, no one wants to know you.

bobb 7:24 am 23 Mar 11

The claim that “Autism Spectrum Disorders aren’t a mental illness” is disputed. When the DSM-IV was published in 1994, autism (and PDD) was moved from Axis II (a classification it shared with Mental Retardation — or Intellectual Disability in more politically correct terms) to Axis I; the experts who define the diagnosis chose the same classification for autism as the other mental illnesses. Further, evidence shows treatments for other mental illnesses, such as CBT, can be the most beneficial option for an individual with an autism spectrum disorder.

“People with ASDs can develop mental health issues just like anybody else” so a particular concern is that typically mental health services deny people with a dual diagnosis of ASD and other mental illness access to treatment for undisputed mental illness (e.g. anxiety, depression, psychosis) because of their ASD. They deny people with ASD essential treatment for their recognised mental illness. That is discrimination.

Yes, Disability ACT should provide disability services … but it does not provide treatment (which is a right under international law). For example, Disability ACT is not responsible for cochlea implants or other treatments relating to disability. They are not funded for or skilled in providing treatment for disability (just as traditionally they have not provided the disability support services that many people with enduring mental illness need).

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m_ratt 7:22 pm 20 Mar 11

Autism Spectrum Disorders aren’t a mental illness… They’re a developmental disability. Yes they are caused by the brain, but so are Cerebral Palsy and most intellectual disabilities – they’re not mental illnesses either. People with ASDs can develop mental health issues just like anybody else.

ACT Mental Health should rightly focus on mental health issues; Disability ACT (DHCS) on providing services for people with disabilities.

World Spinner 5:30 pm 20 Mar 11

Autism Awaits Awareness in the ACT | The RiotACT…

Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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