From 1 July 2008, new Medicare items becameboy sitting on grass
available for the diagnosis and early intervention of children with autism or any other pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). These items apply to services provided by eligible psychologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists, on referral from a consultant psychiatrist or paediatrician. The Medicare items cover two specific types of services - assessment services and treatment services.

For information on providing assessment and treatment services for children with autism or one of the pervasive developmental disorders under Medicare, please refer to Services for children with autism or any other pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) on the APS website.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has partnered with Allied Health Professionals Australia, Speech Pathology Australia, and OT Australia, to develop information materials and activities to support the introduction of the new Medicare items and to promote evidence-based practice in the care of children with autism or one of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDD).

Information for health professionals and care givers of a child suspected of having autism or one of the pervasive developmental disorders

Two information booklets have been developed (one for health professionals and one for parents and carers). The booklets include information about ASD and the role of psychologists, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists in assessing, diagnosing and treating children with an ASD. A booklet for parents and other carers, and one for health professionals are available to download from the following links:

The consumer and health professional booklets include links for seeking further information and support services for parents and carers, and resources for health professionals.

The ‘Assessment and Treatment of ASD by Psychologists’ training DVD

Within this project, an information and education DVD has been developed to provide psychologists with general information about autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and to educate them in current evidence-based approaches for the assessment and treatment of children in a collaborative multidisciplinary setting.

The DVD is based on a two-day workshop by Dr Tony Attwood and Dr Michelle Garnett. Tony is considered a world-renowned expert in autism. He has over 30 years experience as a clinical psychologist, researcher and program consultant to children and adults with an ASD and their families. Tony has published extensively in the area and has been a keynote speaker at many national and international conferences on autism. Michelle is a clinical psychologist and is the clinical director of a clinic offering assessment and intervention services to children and adults with autism. Michelle has worked as a clinician and researcher in the field of autism for 14 years and has particular expertise in subtypes of autism across all ages. The workshop DVD will cover the following topics:

Assessment

The assessment and diagnosis of ASD including:

  • an explanation of the diagnostic criteria for autism and the three developmental trajectories in early childhood
  • Level 1 and 2 screeners for autism
  • diagnostic instruments
  • diagnostic procedures, including how to explain the diagnosis to parents
  • diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome
  • a critical review of the DSM IV Diagnostic criteria.

The presentation will provide practical information on assessing the dimensions of autism and Asperger's syndrome, additional characteristics, the profile of abilities in girls and women and how to explain the diagnosis to a child or adult.

Treatment of ASD

The psychological treatment of children with an ASD using the five dimensions of ASD as a structure, namely:

  • perspective taking and friendship
  • understanding and expressing emotions
  • development of special interests
  • sensory sensitivity
  • rigidity in thinking.

The relevant theoretical models such as Theory of Mind and Weak Central Coherence will be explained and strategies psychologists can use in clinical practice will be discussed, in particular, modifications to CBT for emotion management and programs to improve social reasoning and friendship skills.

Online examination for inclusion on the APS Autism and PDD Identified Practitioners list

Psychologists who have viewed the Assessment and Treatment of ASD by Psychologists DVD may complete the following online examination to apply for inclusion on the APS Autism and PDD Identified Practitioners list. The online examination takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. Access to the examination is via the use of an Access Code, allocated after registration with the Australian Psychological Society. To register please email your request to: asd@psychology.org.au.

The APS has established a list of APS Autism and PDD Identified Practitioners which is updated on a regular basis. This list identifies psychologists with expertise in the area of autism spectrum disorders. Psychologists must submit an application form for inclusion on the list which asks them to demonstrate evidence of one of the following:

  1. Completion of a postgraduate qualification in professional psychology with a component of developmental psychology, including assessment and treatment of autism
  2. Acquired proficiency through training and workshops on the assessment and treatment of autism and PDD and case study development. Workshops should be equivalent to 14 hours/two days in duration and conducted by an expert in the area
  3. Attendance at an APS two-day workshop on the assessment and treatment of autism and PDD and case study development
  4. Acquired proficiency through completion of the Assessment and Treatment of ASD by Psychologists DVD and a pass result on the online examination.

Detailed information on criteria for inclusion, the application process and the required supporting documentation is provided in the application form.

Multidisciplinary education module

An online multidisciplinary education module has been developed for a broad range of health professionals with the aim to raise awareness of the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to assessment and intervention of children with an ASD, and the role of the key health professionals involved. The multidisciplinary education model will provide information and education about the autism spectrum disorders (ASD); the role of psychologists, speech pathologists and occupational therapists in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children with an ASD; the multidisciplinary nature of assessment and treatment, and pathways to care. This online education tool can be accessed through the Allied Health Professionals Australia website at autism.ahpa.com.au.

Resources for parents and carers

There are a number of government and non-government websites that provide advice and support to those wanting to know more about ASD.

  • Department of Health and Ageing
    www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/autism-children
    The ‘Helping Children with Autism' webpage provides comprehensive information on ASDs and information on how to be part of the Helping Children with Autism' initiative for both parents (or caregivers) and health professionals.
  • Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)
    www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/disability/progserv/people/HelpingChildrenWithAutism/Pages/default.aspx FaHCSIA provide services under the ‘Helping Children with Autism' package. Their website provides information on additional services available such as autism advisors, funding for early intervention services, PlayConnect playgroups, and early days family workshops.
  • Roberts and Prior Review
    Roberts and Prior Table 1
    A table of services available for children diagnosed with or suspected of having an ASD has been prepared as part of a review commissioned by the Department of Health and Ageing. This table provides information and contact details for services as well as eligibility criteria.
  • Raising Children Network website
    www.raisingchildren.net.au
    This website is funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and provides information, online resources and interactive functions to support parents, families, carers and professionals.

State and Territory Autism Associations

ACT
Autism ACT
http://autism.anu.edu.au/
Ph: (02) 6290 1984

SA
Autism SA
www.autismsa.org.au
Ph: 1300 AUTISM (1300 288 476)

NSW
Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT)
www.autismspectrum.org.au
Ph: (02) 8977 8300

TAS
Autism Tasmania
www.autismtas.org.au
Ph: (03) 6423 2288

NT
Autism NT
www.autismnt.com.au  
Ph: (08) 8948 4424 

VIC
Autism Victoria
www.autismvictoria.org.au
Ph: (03) 9657 1605 or 1300 308699 

QLD
Autism Queensland 
www.autismqld.com.au
Ph: (07) 3273 0000 

WA
Autism Association of Western Australia
www.autism.org.au
Ph: (08) 9489 8900

 

Resources for psychologists and other health professionals

There are a number of government and non-government websites that provide information about ASD and pathways to care for children with an ASD.

  • Helping Children with Autism
    www.health.gov.au
    Select "autism' in the "Information by health topic" search box.

    More detailed information on the components of the Government's Helping Children with Autism package can be viewed at this page.
  • FaHCSIA Early Intervention Services
    www.fahcsia.gov.au
    Follow the link on "People with disability" in the subject area to the section on "Support and services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders".

    The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) offers a number of programs to assist children and families of children with an ASD as part of the Helping Children with Autism package. These include a national program of workshops to deliver flexible and targeted support for families and carers, plus playgroups for children with an ASD across Australia.
  • Raising Children Network
    www.raisingchildren.net.au
    Follow the link on the home page to: Raising Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
    As part of the Helping Children with Autism package, the Australian government provides this comprehensive online resource on ASDs to support parents, families, carers and professionals. Parents and carers can visit this site to learn more about ASDs, explore the service pathfinder, read a guide to therapies and interact in a parent's forums.

    The wait for assessment and to receive a formal diagnosis of an ASD is often described by families as the hardest period of all. Parents will not be alone in finding it stressful and overwhelming at times. Support and help is available on this site. 

    Parents can book into an Early Days Workshop, even if they are still waiting for a diagnosis, which is fully funded by the Federal Government. Advice and counselling is also available from local Autism Associations (see above).
  • Autism Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders
    www.autismadvisoryboard.org.au

Referral to a psychologist regarding ASD

To find a psychologist who works in the area of autism and PDD, please refer to the APS Autism and PDD Identified Practitioners list

Other useful resources

A review commissioned by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing examines intervention approaches for treatment of children with an autism spectrum disorder, as well as providing an extensive list of services and programs available across all states and territories. This document is available for download from the Department of Health and Ageing website:

A document examining research findings related to early intervention of children with autism and evidence based guidelines for best practice. This document is available for download from the Department of Health and Ageing website: