5783—CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

Mr Andrew Constance to the Minister for Education and Training, and Minister for Women—

  1. How many support class places are there in NSW for autistic children?
  2. How many of these are within 20 km of home?
  3. How many children in NSW of age 5 enter the school system with an autism diagnosis?
  4. What proportion of autistic children are actually granted a publicly-funded special needs place (IO, IM) of some kind?
  5. What proportion of autistic children find a place in a private special needs school (e.g. Woodbury for $40K pa) or within the Catholic system or in the ASPECT satellite classes?
  6. What is the gap between children diagnosed and children placed in a special needs class i.e. how many autistic children start school in mainstream classes?
  7. How many children with autism who started school last year had had early intervention prior to enrolment?
  8. Is a child who has had early intervention more readily assimilated into mainstream classes?
  9. How many children with autism attending school had public-funded speech therapy support in 2008?
  10. How many children with autism attending school had public-funded occupational therapy support in 2008?
  11. How many children with autism attending school had public-funded behavioural intervention support in 2008?

Answer—

  1. There are 672 specialist autism support class placements for students with autism across NSW. In addition there are approximately 5,400 students with intellectual disability enrolled in special classes. Some of these students may have an additional diagnosis of autism.
  2. The NSW Department of Education and Training does not collect this information centrally.
  3. There are 320 children five years of age currently enrolled in regular classes with a confirmed diagnosis of autism who are supported through the Department of Education and Training's Integration, Funding Support.
    There are 57 children five years of age currently enrolled in autism specific classes. The Department of Education and Training is unable to quantify the number of students enrolled in other specialist classes who might have a diagnosis of autism as well as intellectual disability. Up to 75 per cent of people with autism can also have intellectual disability.
  4. Children are placed in special classes and special schools on the basis of a primary disability confirmation. The Department of Education and Training does not centrally collect data on additional disabilities that individual students may or may not have. Classes are created which focus on the collective educational needs of a group of students, rather than their disability diagnosis. Therefore it is not possible to provide the proportion of children with autism who are placed in special classes.
  5. Parents choose whether they enrol their child in a government or non-government school. Over 80 per cent of students with a disability are enrolled in NSW government schools on the basis of parent choice. The Department of Education and Training does not collect data at this level of detail about students in non-government schools.
  6. Parents of children with disabilities, including those with autism, have a right to choose the type of enrolment setting for their child. This includes placement in a regular class with support, a support class in a regular school or special school. As a consequence there are over 5,000 students currently enrolled in regular classes with a confirmed diagnosis of autism who are supported through the Department's Integration, Funding Support program.
    There are currently over 600 students enrolled in specialist autism classes. In addition, there are approximately 5,400 students with intellectual disability enrolled in special classes. Some of these students may have an additional diagnosis of autism.
  7. The Department of Education and Training operates 100 pre-schools and 46 early intervention classes, however these are a small component of the 3,200 prior to school children's services operating in New South Wales. As a result the Department of Education and Training cannot provide details of how many children with autism who started school last year had early intervention prior to enrolment. 
    The Department manages the Intervention Support Program which provides funding to community based organisations to support young children with disabilities prior to school entry. In 2007 a total of 826 children with autism or Aspergers Syndrome received support through the Intervention Support Program, of which 673 were eligible to enrol in kindergarten in 2008.
  8. Research suggests there are benefits from early, intensive family-based treatment programs, so long as these are adapted to the child's pattern of strengths and weaknesses and take account of family circumstances.
  9. The services of speech pathologists for children attending school are provided through other agencies in particular NSW Health and the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care. The Department of Education and Training is not able to provide the requested figures.
  10. The services of occupational therapists for children attending school are provided through other agencies in particular NSW Health and the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care. The Department of Education and Training is not able to provide the requested figures.
  11. Behavioural intervention support for children with a disability, including autism, is a specialist service provided by behavioural psychologists to help in the management of challenging behaviour. This type of specialist service is provided for children with a disability attending school by the Department of Ageing, Disability and Home Care, NSW Health and specialist non-government organisations. The Department of Education and Training is not able to provide the requested figures.
    The Department of Education and Training does provide school counselling services which are available to all schools to support students with identified behaviour problems. 
    The Department also provides a range of general behaviour programs which are available to all students, including students with autism.


Question asked on 31 March 2009 (session 54-1) and published in Questions & Answers Paper No. 120.
Answer received on 5 May 2009 and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 125.