Services covering a rare and puzzling disorder affecting about 120 Western Australian children, have been brought under a new administration.
Autism, a childhood developmental disorder which affects about four in every 10,000 children, has been brought under the umbrella of the Authority for Intellectually Handicapped persons (AIH).
The disorder, marked by extreme self-isolation and withdrawal from social contact, was given prominence in the movie 'Rain Man' starring Dustin Hoffman. It is much more prevalent in males, with three to four boys for every girl with autism.
Disability Services Minister Eric Ripper said today autism services, provided through the Mildred Creak Centre in East Victoria Park, had previously been the responsibility of the Health Department. Mr Ripper officially marked the hand-over to the AIH at a function organised by the Hillview Autistic Association, which was the parent group for Mildred Creak.
"The transfer to AIH and making Autism the responsibility of the Minister for Disability Services will benefit families, carers and children with autism through involvement in a system specifically geared for people with developmental disabilities," Mr Ripper said.
"AIH has a broad range of expertise and support services and is providing a broader support network through parents, teachers, psychologists and speech therapists."
AIH has about 1,650 staff, and provides accommodation for about 1,200 Western Australians with disabilities. The Authority receives a total of $85.6 million in the State Budget - an increase of $1.2 million on the previous year. The allocation to Mildred Creak is $460,000.
"Western Australians with disabilities, such as autism, have the same rights as other members of the community, but may require additional supports and opportunities," Mr Ripper said.
"This is the basis for the Government's Disability Policy 'A Fair Go for Everyone', which will soon be enshrined in State legislation. These goals are best achieved by the Government and the community working together, co-operatively as partners, in developing and implementing new initiatives."
Mr Ripper said that ensuring children got the best possible start to life and highlighting their value in society, were two key themes of the Government's $179 million Social Advantage package, to be implemented over the next three years.