PEOPLE with Autism in rural and regional areas face multiple and more intense challenges compared to their city counterparts, a new report has found.
A Parliamentary Inquiry into services for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has found there was a shortage of ASD services in regional areas and extensive travel to Melbourne or another regional centres was required to access services.
The report found almost all of the submissions from service providers indicated that rural and regional communities were more likely to experience “multiple levels of vulnerability.”
The committee, which included south west coast MP Roma Britnell, recommended the state government establish centres for autism excellence in regional Victoria which would provide specialist services including early intervention and therapy services.
The inquiry also heard some schools had refused to enrol children with ASD and limitations of the program for students with disabilities. The committee recommended the government fund a strategy for the inclusive education of students with ASD.
It also recommended the government fund the expansion of the coordinator positions of the I CAN network across the state to ensure the roll out of support and mentoring programs in primary and secondary schools.
I CAN south west chairman Anthony Boyle said there was no doubt people with ASD in regional areas faced huge challenges.
“We’re trying to put our son into high school and it is frightening the lack of support,” he said. “Primary school is different. We’re seeing great things there.”
Mr Boyle said there needed to be much greater support to help children with ASD stay in mainstream school.
“Wherever there is support you see results straight away,” he said.
Mrs Britnell praised the work of I CAN South West and said through their work she’d seen young people flourish because they had been supported and embraced.
“It does incredible work and should be supported to continue,” she said.
Mrs Britnell said the committee had recommended access to better diagnostic and clinical services for people with ASD and a more inclusive approach in planning and delivering services.
“I now call on the government to support the recommendations,” she said.