18 April 2016


Member for Evelyn Christine Fyffe has praised local mum Angela Jones for being the catalyst for today’s successful Autism Forum featuring Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Autism Spectrum Disorders, Bernie Finn.

“This all began with Angela who bravely approached my office looking for help for her children – two of whom have Autism but are considered high functioning,” Mrs Fyffe said.

“We got a very clear picture today that Autism has many shades of grey and the education system is not being sufficiently funded to cater for such diverse needs.

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Bernie Finn said that many of the parents echoed his own personal experience as a parent with a child with Autism.

“Parents have to fight the system every time they need something to help their child,” Mr Finn said.

“This is contributing to a trend of relationship breakdowns which adds to the stress of managing their child with Autism.

Main themes from the forum included:
1. Difficulties getting a diagnosis of Autism which then prevents parents accessing services
2. Inadequate funding for aides in schools for children who have the potential to be integrated
3. No support for managing major transitions (for example: kinder to primary school, primary school to high school and high school to independent living as an adult)
4. A high degree of uncertainty about what the National Disability Insurance Scheme will mean for parents who have a child with Autism
5. Toll that Autism takes on marriages and Inadequate counselling for parents to manage stress levels
6. Possible advantages in providing access to both mainstream and disability based learning to achieve better long term educational outcomes
7. A need for specialised tertiary degrees for Autism
8. More affordable access to medical specialists
9. More funding for research to improve early diagnosis
10. Breaking down the stigma of being labelled Autistic

Mrs Fyffe praised the parents, principals and community advocates for their input.

“The discussion brought to light some very important issues that I don’t think policy makers have woken up to yet. The starting point is helping parents get an early diagnosis.

“If parents do get a diagnosis, services such as Yarra Ranges Special Development School and Melba Support Services have limited places available. The Yarra Ranges needs more funding to cope with growing demand,” Mrs Fyffe said.

Mr Finn agreed.

“The bottom line is funding. Children with Autism each have a special gift and require learning to be tailored to realise that gift.

“I am optimistic that the Coalition will be able to take a policy to the 2018 state election to give parents the help they have needed all along,” Mr Finn said.

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