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  • New classes with specialist learning programs for WA kids with autism

    Author: AAP

Worrying rises in autism rates among children have prompted the WA government to commit $46 million to the condition and other disabilities.

Soaring rates of children with autism have prompted WA's Education Minister Peter Collier to commit $32 million to setting up specialist programs at 16 schools.

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The classroom was a difficult place for students with the neurological brain disorder, said Autism Association of WA executive manager Paul Baird.

But he added it was important to ensure as many of those children as possible went to mainstream schools to help live in the real world.

Students will be able to go to any of those 16 schools with specialist learning programs regardless of where they live.

That was unlike the current status where parents rely on the luck of living within the boundary of a school that offers support for a child with autism.

The programs will include some time in small groups with specialist teachers away from mainstream classes with a focus on students' academic engagement, organisation skills, social thinking, peer relationships and self-regulation.

Socialising and making friends were among the most difficult activities for children with autism, said mother Kristie Anderson, whose two sons Riley, 8, and Haydyn, 6, both have the condition.

"They are coping OK with mainstream school at the moment but a more detailed individual education plan would be absolutely awesome," she told reporters.

"They find socialisation very difficult within the classroom, they make friendships but find it extremely hard to maintain them because they don't pick up on social cues at all.

"I wouldn't change my children at all, they come with autism and that's part of who they are."

More than 4000 students with autism spectrum disorder are enrolled in WA public schools.

Mr Collier said he was not satisfied with the amount of resources for students with autism.

Another $14 million will go to funds to support students with other disabilities.

Mr Baird welcomed the new programs, saying 20 years ago children with autism would not have attended school.

The increased rates of autism are regarded as worrying but the reasons and causes are unknown, with a widening definition and diagnosis only partly explaining it.

"Because we don't know the cause, there is no cure unfortunately but there is lots of research around the world on autism," Mr Baird said.


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