Monday, March 17, 2008

Autism Tragedy In Tasmania, Australia


ROGER LAW, Secretary of ATAC, (Action For Tasmanian Autistic Children) said today that the tragedy at Clifton Beach highlighted the total lack of services for Autistic children in Tasmania, and the lack of qualified and knowledgeable professional help for families with autistic children.

Mr Law said that on Friday afternoon, he and the missing boy's mother had been with the Commissioner for Children and had raised with him the appropriateness of housing two seriously disturbed autistic children, who did not like each other, in the same unit.
Mr Law queried why only one carer was left to look after these two very seriously disturbed autistic children, neither of whom had the capacity for language. Mr Law said he understands that the normal practice was for two carers to be rostered when both boys were present in the unit. He questioned whether this was a case of budget considerations getting in the way of best practice for vulnerable children in care?

Roger said he had no criticism of the Carer involved, who was known to him, and whom he had trusted to give respite for his own autistic grandson. He was a strong gentle giant of a man whom it appears was placed in an impossible situation by his employer and who [apparently] gave his own life trying to protect a seriously disabled child.
'His family is now another family thrown into tragedy by the lack of understanding of autism so prevalent in the government departments responsible for caring for these children.'
Mr Law called on the Government to immediately come to the aid of the family of the missing boy. as they are in shock and crisis.
'This tragedy would not have happened if the family were not in emergency accommodation awaiting placement with the Housing Department. It was normal practice for the son to stay with his family on Friday and Saturdays, but this was not possible because of the accommodation problem this week.'
Roger said that the boy's mother had tried desperately for seven months to get help in her own home to help her keep the boy, who was experiencing a total breakdown, with his family. When government services refused to give the aid she needed to keep her other children safe, she had no option but to leave her son with the authorities.
'What role did the neglect of these Government Services over an extended period of time play in this tragedy?' he asked.
The Coroner has already been asked to assess the role that lack of appropriate Government Services played in the death of another autistic youth last year.
'And now it appears to have happened again,' he said.
'Government Services do not learn.,' Mr Law said. 'Even now there is another tragedy waiting to happen. A very ill single mother with a severely autistic child is in crisis. ATAC had been able to obtain a government funded program for her son, and significant improvement was being made. The funding for this program has been withdrawn in an attempt to force her to place her son into school. This was in spite of warnings from a world-recognized expert that all the child's gains will be lost and that he will break down if returned to normal schooling.

'So we have a seriously ill mother having complex seizures on a daily basis with a seriously disabled son who is being refused help in her home by Government Services. And these Government Services are supposed to be helping disabled children and their families. This is another tragedy just waiting to happen!'
Mr Law instanced a case where the mother of another autistic child in care got funding from legal aid for her child to be examined and tested by an interstate expert in Autism Spectrum Disorder to get an alternative assessment of what was required for her child , and the Department refused to release the child for testing!
Roger went on to say that ATAC had just received a copy of the Californian Health Department's 'Guidelines for Best Practice in the Diagnosis of Autism', and that Tasmanian practices failed on all of the recommended best practice guidelines.
Mr Law said that there is a pressing need for a full independent enquiry into the services for people Autism in this State. He said that such was the paucity of Services in this State that international experts and interstate experts will need to be brought in to advise on changing the care of autistic children in this state,
ROGER CAN BE CONTACTED ON O3 6286 1316, MOB 04004271500
web site for ATAC:

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