Intensive autism therapy service to end, call for Government to ensure survival

Helen Morton says there will be proper therapy options available.

By Jacob Kagi

A purpose-built clinic in East Fremantle providing "applied behaviour analysis" (ABA), run by a private operator called The Complete Advantage was set to cease that service within months.The West Australian Government is being urged to ensure the survival of a provider of a type of intensive autism therapy which is set to shut down.

The operator took over the centre after the previous LEARN Foundation was forced to close its doors in 2013 amid financial trouble and difficulty accessing Government grants.

It includes intensive therapy, tailored to an individual's condition, in an effort to improve things such as fine motor and communication skills and ability in reading, writing and mathematics.

We're going to see up to 20 families be left high and dry and not be able to access the services they need.

Stephen Dawson

But it is understood The Complete Advantage has also been unable to make the program financially viable and has told parents its closure is imminent.

It was one of the few ABA providers in the state, although others incorporate the technique into their therapy.

ABA is described as "the process of systemically applying interventions, in an effort to improve socially significant behaviours", costing tens of thousands of dollars for the families of some children.

Mental Health Minister Helen Morton said the Government would ensure there were proper therapy options available to autism sufferers who have been using the service.

"There are alternative, less costly and equally successful early intervention programs for children with autism that are greatly valued by the many families accessing those services," she said.

"All of the children will be given another opportunity to move into another form of early intervention."

Labor's mental health spokesman, Stephen Dawson, said it was not good enough for the Government to let the ABA service die.

"Those families tell me that they're seeing real improvements in their children, they fear any improvement that has been made over the past few years will now fall away," he said.

"We're going to see up to 20 families be left high and dry and not be able to access the services they need, that they believe have made a significant difference in the lives of their loved ones.

"This is going to throw their lives into turmoil."

Ms Morton said she was confident the quality of autism therapies available in WA remained high.

"The outcomes have not been shown to be any greater than the outcomes that are being achieved from other early intervention programs," she said.

"Unfortunately they've all come to the same conclusion that it just can't be made viable."

Ms Morton said the Government provided more than $17 million to fund early intervention autism therapies across the state.