Premier Kristina Keneally today announced a three-tiered, $1 million boost in services for NSW kids with a disability or development disorder, their families and carers.
The package focuses on providing extra assistance to young people before they enter school, and help them build relationships once they are in school. It incorporates:
An extra $690,000 over three years for Lifestart, a non profit organization that provides early intervention services to kids with a disability; $300,000 for an Autism Australia documentary that will increase the understanding of autism amongst young people; and The Play for Kids project, which will raise awareness of the importance of play in the lives of children with a developmental delay or disability.
"We know providing support as early as possible leads to children with a disability having the best chance in life," Ms Keneally said.
"The programs I'm announcing today are about giving kids some extra help before school, then helping them to integrate into the school environment."
The extra $690,000 will be directed to Lifestart, which delivers early intervention services, support for families and help for kids to transition to school.
The extra funding will mean they can provide 28 extra early childhood intervention places.
Lifestart is a non government organization which has provided services for 350 children a year in seven locations across Sydney since 1996.
As a result of today's announcement, Lifestart will now receive more than $6 million over the next three years.
"The NSW Government is building an inclusive society that enables people with a disability to fulfill their potential," Ms Keneally said.
"That's why we support organizations such as Lifestart to build a brighter future for children with a disability and their families.
"The $690,000 in funding they will receive over the next three years will help them to help more children, giving them the best start in life."
Lifestart will also deliver Play for Kids, a play-based early intervention project which helps children who are aged under six years old to improve social and learning skills.
Play for Kids will be delivered using digital media, including a website, facebook, youtube and tweeting, to raise community awareness across NSW.
The website will enable families to download games which can be used as a therapy tool in the home.
"Play is a valuable way of helping children with a disability or developmental delay to strengthen relationships and develop life skills," Ms Keneally said.
"This is about teaching kids who need extra help, how to build friendships and relationships, and the communications skills that they will need in later life.
"We are partnering with Lifestart to deliver this service, based on their expertise in delivering disability services in Sydney for the past 14 years."
The $300,000 grant to Autism Australia will allow them to produce a documentary to be aired to NSW school students, which: Promotes better understanding in schools of Autism Spectrum Disorders; and Explains how to build friendships with people with these disorders.
Ms Keneally said the documentary will aim to explain autism to children, dispel myths, and build more tolerance and understanding of autism amongst school children.
"The documentary will answer questions young people have about autism, and show it is not a barrier to friendship," Ms Keneally said.
"The film will send a message that kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder should be accepted, supported and encouraged to be part of the class and school life."
It is expected that the documentary will take 4-5 months to produce, and could be in classrooms by early next year.
The autism awareness documentary will complement a range of other initiatives currently being provided by the NSW Government to help young people with autism.
Over the past three years, the NSW Government has invested $17 million in services for young people with autism and their families, which will increase to $21 million this year.
Minister for Disability Services, Peter Primrose, said included in the $21 million for this financial year is the establishment of the Autism Early Years Demonstration Service.
The new service will provide 20 child care places for children with autism and support for another 50 children in Western Sydney.
"What we are doing is here is getting in early, emphasizing integration of kids with autism spectrum disorders before they even reach school age," Mr Primrose said.
"This is about helping build an inclusive society that is accepting of young people with autism as members of the community."
Mr Primrose said he was particularly pleased about the new Autism Australia documentary.
"This will support kids with autism spectrum disorders to integrate into the education system," Mr Primrose said.
"That will help them build relationships with other students, which is a skill they will take through their lives."
For more information, go to www.autismawaremness.com.au and www.lifestart.org.au
Background notes -This year the NSW Government will provide $41.5 million, through aging Disability and Home Care (ADHC), to support young people with a disability and their families. That includes more than $23 million to support families with a child aged up to six years with a disability or developmental delay, through early childhood intervention services. This funding supports a range of services and programs in targeted areas across NSW, including: The Autism Early Childhood Development Project, though which $2 million will be spent on early intervention, community education and screening services; The Autism Early Years Demonstration Service, a four year $6.8 million program to provide child care services for 70 kids with autism; The Autism Early Childhood Intervention Initiative, through which $4.8 million will be spent on professional development and behavior intervention services; The Helping Troubled Kids initiative, a $5.9 million program which delivers mentoring, leisure and case management for kids with problem behaviors; and Aspect adolescent support, a $2 million program to provide case management services for kids aged 12 to 18 years old who have autism related behaviors.
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