By David Trembath
A major change is on the way that will benefit autistic children and their families.
For the first time in Australia, there will be a National Guideline for practitioners to follow when supporting autistic children and their families. A draft version of the Guideline has been released, and feedback is invited until August 29.
What does the Draft Guideline say?
It is really important that people read all of the Recommendations contained in the draft document, but it is fair to say that it is strongly focused on children’s rights to access supports that are safe, effective, and desired by them and their families, delivered by practitioners with appropriate knowledge, skills, qualifications, experience and regulation.
The Draft Guideline states that supports should be individualised, strengths-focused, and honour childhood. They should be neurodiversity-affirming, meaning that they should not attempt to reduce or ‘cure’ autism, but rather help children develop skills and create inclusive environments that support their learning, participation, and wellbeing.
The Draft Guideline acknowledges not all supports are helpful, that some can do harm, and that any risks must be understood, managed, and avoided where possible. It emphasises the importance of supports being safe, effective, and desirable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Why is a Guideline useful?
The Guideline, when finalised, will help ensure all autistic children and their families have access to high quality supports. It will ensure that practitioners understand best practice. The Guideline will also help parents and families to know what to expect and demand from the people who work with their children.
How is it being developed?
The Guideline is being developed by Autism CRC. The process is led by a 15-person Guideline Development Group, that includes autistic people, parents, practitioners, and other key stakeholders. The group is following national and international standards for Guideline development which includes gathering research evidence and extensive community consultation with children, families, autistic people, practitioners and the broader autistic and autism communities.
Why is feedback invited?
The Draft Guideline has been released, but it is not finished. Autism CRC warmly invites feedback from autistic people, parents, family members, practitioners, and everyone who cares about ensuring children and families receive safe, effective, and desirable supports. The Guideline Development Group will read every comment received via the feedback portal, make changes, and publish a response to each person’s feedback, where requested.
When will it be released?
Autism CRC will release the Guideline towards the end of the year and then work with people and organisations across the autistic and autism communities to ensure it is used in practice.
To view the Guideline and provide feedback, head to https://www.autismcrc.com.au/supporting-children/draft-release
David Trembath is an Associate Professor in speech pathology at Griffith University and Honorary Research Fellow at CliniKids, Telethon Kids Institute. He is Co-Chair of the Guideline Development Group, alongside Prof Andrew Whitehouse at Telethon Kids Institute.