Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The Queensland Government has announced $1 million a year over three years for new autism centers in Bundaberg and Mackay. These will provide care and also early intervention services to the substantial number of autistic children in the region.
Autism is a behavioral disorder seen in one in 160 children within the age of six and twelve. Last month the Daily Mercury revealed that autism rates in Mackay were almost double than considered normal. Education Queensland figures show about one in every 60 children attending state schools in the Mackay region has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); as of November 2009 there were 152 students reported as having the disorder.
Similar centers have been established in Cairns and Rockhampton. According to Autism Queensland chief executive officer Penny Beeston, centers in Queensland will be similar with added facilities to reach out to more remote areas. She said in a statement, “It's really critical that families can bring their children into the centre and know that they're going to be able to access a centre-based program where there are really intensive therapy and communication programs available that will fast-track some of those developmental delays that we see in children with autism…We're beginning to see a role out of early intervention programs in the regional areas and it's just so critical and to see the Government responding to the needs in Bundaberg and in Mackay is really exciting for those families.”
At present the decision of who will oversee the facility is being taken said the Disability Services Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk. She said in a statement, “As soon as we find a location we will be calling for people to establish this service…Mackay’s new autism early intervention centre will provide specialist services and support to local children and their families…It will give them access to speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy in a new state-of-the-art centre. The centre will also provide outreach services to children in the Mackay-Whitsunday region.” Bundaberg will similarly benefit with a new autism early intervention set up. “Bundaberg’s new centre will provide specialist services and support to local children and their families.” The centers, she promised will also reach out to the “children in the Wide-Bay Burnett region.”
She explained that emphasis was placed on early intervention because any therapeutic approach before the age of four significantly improved the learning potential of children with autism.