World's largest autism grant will transform research landscape

The largest research grant ever given for neurodevelopmental conditions has been awarded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative to an international consortium academically led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King's College London.

The €115 million grant, titled Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials (AIMS-2-Trials), will increase our understanding of autism and help develop new therapies to improve health outcomes and quality of life for autistic people.

Autism’s sex ratio, explained

Autism is significantly more common in boys than in girls. This skewed sex ratio has been recognized since the first cases of autism were described in the 1940s. The exact reasons for the ratio remain unclear. It could be rooted in biological differences between the sexes. Or, some experts say, it may be an artifact of the way autism is defined and diagnosed.

Here’s how researchers estimate and explain the sex ratio in autism.

Autistic children aged seven to 14 targeted for NDIS removal

Rick Morton

The managers of the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme are “back-testing” children with autism to make sure they meet eligibility criteria, and ­“reviewing them out” when they don’t.

The Australian has confirmed with senior National Disability Insurance Agency sources that 22,000 autistic children aged seven to 14 are being “function­ally assessed”. Those who fail to meet the criteria are having their support partially or entirely ­removed.

Victoria: Art Competition

VPSC is holding an art competition for people with disability. We’d love for you to help us promote it.

The winning artwork will feature on the Victorian public sector’s first ever Disability Employment Action Plan. VPSC is developing the action plan in close consultation with government departments, agencies and offices. The plan is a collective commitment by the sector to provide flexible and sustainable employment for people of all abilities, lifting representation to 6% by 2020.

There is ample expertise in autism that is just waiting to be tapped

Judy Bewer

Ill-informed debate over eligibility and arbitrary line-drawing through the autism spectrum is the result of years of neglect of ­autism research and a failure to engage with those who had the ­answers. It was a perfect storm waiting to happen, and the gales have now blown in.

When our son was diagnosed as autistic in 1996, my husband was the deputy prime minister of Australia. Socio-economic privilege? We were definitely at the top of the list. I left the pediatrician’s room with a diagnosis, a screaming three-year-old child, a three-month-old baby and a photo­copied A4 piece of paper with stick figures on it. That was it. I was on my own to negotiate the rest. We are a fortunate family, ­educated and connected, with ­access to support and resources beyond many, and yet it took every ounce of our being to create a pathway for our son to find his place in society. Multiple schools, mental health episodes, hospital stays, bullying and all that goes with being ­extraordinary in a ­society that ­prioritises the ordinary.

We can’t guarantee places for autism, says NDIA boss

The man heading the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme “cannot guarantee” that specific levels of autism will remain on a list of conditions that gain automatic entry to the program, just weeks after the agency accidentally published a document that changed access guidelines.

Rob De Luca, the chief executive of the National Disability ­Insurance Agency, was grilled in Senate estimates yesterday about the mistaken update revealing a secret internal strategy codenamed Project Greenlight, which has existed within the organisation for about two months, aimed at eligibility criteria.

NDIS introduces onerous and inequitable eligibility requirements for autistic children

On the 23/5/2018, the Minister for Social Security wrote to autism organisations to "assure" them that there would be "extensive consultation with stakeholders and the community" before making any changes to NDIS eligibility (see http://a4.org.au/node/1761).

Three days later, on the 26/5/2018, the NDIS tweeted that it "updated our website" and provided a link to https://ndis.gov.au/people-with-disability/access-requirements/completing-your-access-request-form/evidence-of-disability. The web page has new eligibility requirements. Autism stakeholders were not consulted about the changes to the NDIS eligibility process that appeared on that webpage.

NDIS bid to restrict access by rewriting rules on autism

A radical plan to alter the definition of autism will be the cornerstone of a push to restrict access to the $22 billion National Disability Insurance Scheme, which could see thousands of people with substantial support needs removed from the system entirely.

The agency in charge says the proposed redesign will dismantle the idea of an autism “spectrum” — an idea coming back in vogue globally — and place people into specific “subtypes” based on individual characteristics.

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