NDIS: A turning point for children and adults with autism

Australia’s National Disability scheme marks the start of people with autism gaining better access to therapies, says Therapy Pro social worker Julie Marshall.

The numbers are daunting. By the end of March 2018, nearly two years after the start of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) roll-out, more than 162,000 Australians had accessed the scheme. Of these, some 29% of NDIS participants across the age spectrum experience autism as their primary disability.

By the time NDIS is fully operational in July 2019, an estimated 460,000 Australians may be receiving packages: more than 153,000 of those are likely to be on the autism spectrum.

The large number of those with autism accessing the NDIS doesn’t come as a surprise to Therapy Pro social worker Julie Marshall. She hopes that the scheme will act as a turning point for Australians with autism.

“Young adults with autism struggle to gain acceptance of their local community as there is still a lack of awareness around autism, particularly for those functioning at a higher level. When people cannot see a ‘disability’ they find it difficult to understand the significant daily challenges that people face, both socially and emotionally,” she says.

Therapy plays an important role in helping people with autism. These can include specialist behaviour supports, such as those Julie provides, as well as speech and language therapy for those who have difficulty with communication, as well as occupational therapy and psychology.

“I feel very privileged to have developed Positive Behaviour Support plans for both children and adults with autism. It’s a person-centred approach and involves teaching new skills and replacement behaviours to increase the quality of life and reduce behaviours of concern. It’s an important and impactful process to be involved in for everyone,” says Julie.

Julie has witnessed the behaviours of those with autism who struggle to communicate and others not understanding what those with autism are trying to make them understand.

“Once this speech and language therapy commences, it is amazing to see how this can open up a new world for someone with autism and reduces the incidents of outburst behaviours caused by frustration,” she says.

Julie believes that NDIS has a potentially important and life-changing role to play for Australians of all ages living with autism.

“I would like to see people at all levels of the autism spectrum receive reasonable and necessary supports to improve their quality of life and give them opportunities to achieve their goals.”

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