The purpose of government funding for students with disabilities is to improve educational outcomes and wellbeing.
Before we go any further, let me just clarify that there is no clear evidence to suggest that Asperger’s Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism (HF Autism) are two separate disorders.* Therefore, I will refer to both as HF Autism.
(* If you want to know more about the difference between Asperger’s Syndrome and HF Autism please read Tony Attwood’s comments on the topic.)
So how can funding help your child with HF Autism?
For younger children, government funding can be used for a wide range of early intervention services, such as diverse therapies, speech pathology, playgroups, social skills groups, and workshops for parents.
(More information here: What is the Helping Children with Autism Package?)
School-age children with HF Autism can attend mainstream schools, and may be eligible for government funding under the Program for Students with Disabilities. In this case, the funding is given to the school, and the school decides how the funding will be spent to better help your child (e.g. integration aides, speech pathology, occupational therapy, professional development for staff, classroom equipment).
No matter how old the child is, funding is critical. Most families need funding to provide the extra support required to maximise potential, learn and achieve goals.
What happens when my child with HF Autism no longer qualifies for funding?
An article recently published by The Age highlights the struggle children with HF Autism (and their family) face once they no longer qualify for government funding to support their educational needs.
For example, children with HF Autism often don’t meet the funding criteria if they have well-developed language skills. However, this doesn’t mean that they are less “autistic”. These children still require great deal of support and guidance. And if this help is not provided, the consequences can be very detrimental for the child, the child’s family, and the school.
Updates to the DSM-IV: What does it mean for children with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Currently, Pervasive Developmental Disorders include Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), among others.
The proposed changes have been made in the hope that ASD diagnoses will be more reliable and accurate. The changes are significant; they not only affect individuals and families directly, but also have significant economic and educational consequences.
Here are some of the proposed changes:
The new DSM-V removes the separate labels and uses the umbrella term “Autistic Spectrum Disorder”, under which symptoms are represented in a continuum from mild to severe.
Severity of symptoms (social, communication, and other cognitive and motor behaviours) will be assessed. These will provide a severity level (i.e., Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3), that represent the amount of support required for each individual.
The new criteria will increase the specificity of the diagnosis, narrowing the symptom definition. Therefore, a significant amount of children who still exhibit overall symptoms of ASD will no longer meet the diagnostic criteria.
Symptomatology domains will be reorganised, including combining the Communication and Social Interaction domains into one single Social/Communication Deficits domain.
Implications of the DSM updates to children with HF Autism
Fewer children will meet the diagnostic criteria. Therefore, the incidence and prevalence rates of ASD will likely reduce.
Children who meet the current diagnostic criteria but not future criteria will still exhibit ASD symptoms. Therefore, it is critical that we determine how these children will be supported.
It will also be critical to determine what will happen to children who are currently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome or PDD-NOS.
How can I support my child with HF Autism?
Be your child’s advocate – Ensure the school has an Individualised Learning Plan (ILP) for your child and that Student Support Group meetings are held regularly. All children diagnosed with Autism are eligible to have these in place, regardless of whether or not they meet the funding eligibility criteria.
Establish a home routine – Having a predictable home routine will reduce your child’s anxiety and minimise the opportunity for tantrums. If there is an upcoming change to the routine, prepare your child in advance talking to him or her about it.
Make use of visual aids – Visual aids, such as reward charts and schedules, are great tools to help children understand what is expected of them. They are also very useful for planning and preparing for upcoming events/activities.
Ensure learned skills are generalised – Whenever possible, try to generalise skills learned in one environment to other environments.
Modify undesirable behaviours – Develop positive strategies to support your child’s behaviour and learning. Reward positive behaviours and (as much as possible) ignore undesired behaviours. A child psychologist who specialises in Educational & Developmental Psychology will be able to help you implement tailored strategies and techniques to better support your child.
If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s needs please contact us.