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Helping children in the Northern Suburbs get a better start in life

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SENATOR JAN MCLUCAS Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers

NICK CHAMPION MP Federal Member for Wakefield

05 November 2012

Helping children in the Northern Suburbs get a better start in life

Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas and Member for Wakefield, Nick Champion today joined local children with disability, their families and carers at Talking Matters in Elizabeth East, South Australia.

Talking Matters is a speech pathology service which provides early intervention and therapy services for children aged up to 18 years. Talking Matters has assisted 330 local children through the Australian Government‟s Helping Children with Autism package and 20 children through the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative.

Parents and carers of children attending the centre told Senator McLucas and Mr Champion how the early intervention services, including speech pathology and occupational therapy, were helping their children get a better start in life.

Sarah and Jordan Sarah’s son Jordan is 6½ and has been diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome. At the age of 5½ Jordan refused to participate in activities in school and did not know the letters of the alphabet. A year of therapy at Talking Matters has delivered a profound change in Jordan’s progress. Jordan is now performing at the level expected for his age and has significantly developed his social skills. Sarah who also cares for Jordan’s younger brother who has global developmental delay and sister who has sensory integration difficulties is unable to work said, the funding has been great. Jordan has done so well and they wouldn’t have been able to access the support without it.

Natasha and Joshua Natasha told the story of her son Joshua aged 7 who was diagnosed with severe autism and global developmental delay as a two year old. He has been accessing regular therapy since age 2½. Joshua needed therapy to develop his early communication skills such as eye contact, pointing, sharing attention and turn taking. When he was able to access an iPad through his funding he used this as a communication device to learn to make choices and request items. This was a breakthrough for Josh and he recently began to speak. Natasha said the funding has been great. It has allowed Josh to access the funding he needs. Natasha said that she is also concerned that he is now too old to receive funding at a time when he is getting significant benefit from therapy.

Fran and Christopher Fran, the local mother of 5 year old Nicholas who was diagnosed with severe Autism, and son Christopher who has been diagnosed with Aspergers said the funding has been fantastic as it has allowed the boys to access the level of therapy they need. With two children (with disability), Fran is unable to work many hours and the need to pay for therapy would put a significant strain on the family.

Senator McLucas and Mr Champion also met the Kraly Family whose four of six children attend Talking Matters.

Mother Mel Kraly said “The services have been great. It was particularly helpful for Jakob as I was concerned he wouldn‟t speak. The first time he said „mummy‟ it was marvellous.”

The Co-Founder and Director of Talking Matters, Carla Branson said there was strong support for the packages from both families and staff at Talking Matters.

”The Helping Children with Autism package has been a significant help for many families, allowing them to access vital therapy services that they otherwise couldn‟t afford.

“As well as supporting families, the HCWA package has allowed Talking Matters to grow as a service from a team of five to ten speech pathologists. We now have the opportunity to develop specialised skills in areas of interest such as autism, Asperger‟s Syndrome and Down syndrome,” Ms Branson said.

Mr Champion said “The Australian Government knows that early intervention services are vital in helping children reach their full potential. However, a big challenge for many local families is the cost of accessing services.

“Through Better Start and Helping Children with Autism funding, families with children under the age of seven can receive up to $12,000 for early intervention services and therapies that they can choose themselves.

“Our funding is making early intervention services more accessible,” he said.

A number of parents also shared their hopes that a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) would provide further support for children who are not currently accessing funding or where access to funding would finish at the age of seven.

Senator McLucas said the Government would continue to focus on supporting these children and families in the early years as it works to build an NDIS.

“A National Disability Insurance Scheme would really focus on making sure early intervention services are available to families when they need them, so our children start on the right foot,” Senator McLucas said.

The Gillard Government is delivering $1 billion to launch the first stage of an NDIS from mid-next year.

In South Australia, an NDIS will support children with disabilities up to age 14. By 2015, nearly 5,000 children in South Australia with significant and permanent disability will be benefiting from an NDIS.

“The Gillard Government is working hard with the South Australian Government to build an NDIS. We want to make sure people with disability get the care and support they need, no matter where they live or how they acquired their disability.”

Mr Champion said local people with disability, their families and carers have waited long enough for change.

“I‟m proud to be part of a Government that‟s making this change happen and I will continue working closely with the local community as the NDIS becomes a reality.”

Mr Champion encouraged parents to register for Better Start and Helping Children with Autism.

For more information on Better Start or Helping Children with Autism, visit

Media contacts: Sandi Gatt (McLucas) 0400 130 568 - Mathew Werfel (Champion) 08 8284 2422

Left to Right:- Lauren Payne - Talking Matters, Gayle Ryan, Christine Hanatschek, Jessica Rossiter - Talking Matters, Mel Kraly, Kylie St Clair, Nick Champion MP, Meg Redway -Talking Matters & Carla Branson - Talking Matters

Foreground:- Senator Jan McLucas - Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers and Chloe Hanatschek