Autism Help

Reporter: Laura Sparkes

It's a familiar scene...a mum and her son playing cars...but that is not what's happening here...This is a therapist trying to teach a 5 year old to play...and speak...do what other kids learn naturally.

When Tara Wilson's identical twins Jack and Boston still weren't speaking at 3...she knew something was wrong

Soon after they were diagnosed with Autism.

"There was a lot of anger over the diagnosis why me, why us, and why them, those cute gorgeous little boys are going to have such a struggle in life we couldn't go anywhere because of their behaviour and because of the running away and I just felt like a prisoner in my own home." Said Tara Wilson

After much searching Tara was lucky enough to get her sons into The Lizard Centre...

"Most children just learn by imitating, watching their peers, just being around other people, we know children ont he autism spectrum don't do that so we have to jump start, kick start that process so they can learn to learn on their own." Said Nicole Rogerson

Creator and director of the Lizard Centre Nicole Rogerson ....knows firsthand the need for early intervention. Her Jack was diagnosed as a young boy...After finding a therapist that helped him using ABA.. Applied Behaviour Analysis... Nicole decided to set up a much needed centre.

"Teaching children everything really that they have a deficit, from social skills to play skills to language skills and its intensive we have behavioural analyst, we have speech pathologists, occupational therapists, psychologists, its a whole team of people." Said Nicole

The twins spend 25 hours a week here and do extra therapy at home.

"They've different children they're just happier, were all happier and they've just learnt skills in every area of child development." Said Tara

The problem is this therapy is expensive the government says autistic kids need 20 hours of it a week but they only fund 1 to 2 hours, the rest of it has to be paid for by the parents, it puts an enormous financial strain on families and for some it's impossible to afford.

"It's akin to saying if a child had a particular disease we know you need 10 tablets but budget wise we can only give you that one." Said Nicole

It costs about 50 thousand dollars a year..the government funding dries up at just 6 thousand dollars per year for only two years...that leaves parents to find the extra 44 thousand dollars each year....the Lizard Centre is one of many teaching ABA but many miss out.

"The reality is only families of much higher incomes are able to access best practice early intervention and i don't think in this country it children's outcomes should be dependent on their parents wealth." Said Nicole

To pay for the twins therapy ...Tara and her husband have already drained their superannuation...next year they're mortgaging the family home.

"On one hand that's sad in this country that we have to resort to that but what about the families that dont have access to any super they might be renting." Said Tara

With one in 100 kids in Australia now diagnosed with autism it is the fastest growing developmental disorder... we still don't know why it happens......some researchers believe it has to do with gut bacteria triggering it...What they do know is the earlier kids start therapy the faster they learn.

"Without early intervention the autism takes hold on these children if you intervene early you can minimise the effects of the developing diroser on the child." Said Cheryl

Associate professor Cheryl Dissanyake (diss-an-i-car) is director of the Olga Tennyson Autism Research Centre at Melbourne's La Trobe University...she oversees one of only 6 long day-care centres funded by the federal government just for autistic kids...

"The ideal centres are these centres whereby parents can pay childcare fees and access childcare benefits and yet receive early intervention for those fees, whereas most intervention comes from private providers and it costs money and its expensive." Said Cheryl

"Our goal is to identify pre-natal risk factors for autism, autism isn't like downs syndrome, there is not a clear biological marker for autism." Said Prof Whitehouse

Professor Andrew Whitehouse runs the autism program at Perth's Telethon Institute of Child Health Research...He's trying to identify a screening test for autism in the womb....by studying pregnant mums who already have one autistic child against those who don't.....measuring foetal brain growth and taking blood tests from the mothers...

"If we find that Vitamin D, low Vitamin D during pregnancy is associated with autism, we can start talking about well maybe supplementation is important, that's just one possibility." Said Prof

Mother of 5 Emma Grier is part of the trial because her five year old son Aidan has autism...She's quick to point out an autism risk test wouldn't lead to terminations.

"If we knew then we could just move no, start early intervention a lot earlier than we did with Aidan and get better results than if we didn't." Said Emma

Through ABA therapy both Aiden now goes to mainstream school ...but many others will miss out.

"We know what these kids need, you can see it you can see it in kids like jack and boston i just want it for every Australian kid who has autism spectrum." Said Nicole

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Lizard Centre Chatswood sydney NSW

www.lizardcentre.com

(02) 99048130

Or Various Autism Associations in your state