Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres - Questions and Answers

General

  1. Where will the new Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres be located?
  2. How are the centres related to other Australian Government initiatives?
  3. Who are the service providers of the centres and when will the centres be available?
  4. What is the purpose of the centres?
  5. How was the Tasmanian site identified?
  6. How were the remaining sites identified?
  7. Why have the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory missed out?
  8. How many children can attend each centre?
  9. Why are there only six centres and will there be more centres in the future?
  10. How can I obtain further information about the centres?

Parents and Carers

  1. Is my child eligible to attend one of the Early Learning and Care Centres?
  2. Can I use my Helping Children with Autism funding package at an Early Learning and Care Centre?
  3. Will the Early Learning and Care Centres follow best practice in the autism field?
  4. Will service delivery in the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres be based on Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA)?
  5. How do I enrol my child in one of the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres?
  6. Will my child have access to early education while at a centre?

General

1. Where will the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres be located?

Six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres have been or are being established in the following locations:

  • South Western Sydney
  • Brisbane
  • Adelaide
  • North West Tasmania
  • Melbourne
  • Perth

2. How are the centres related to other Australian Government initiatives?

In addition to the Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) package, the Government is establishing six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres. The Department of Education has responsibility for the broader commitment to establish Early Learning and Care Centres in 38 priority locations.

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3. Who are the service providers of the centres and when will the centres be available?

  • Melbourne - The La Trobe University Margot Prior Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre
    La Trobe University in partnership with the Royal Children's Hospital extended the existing state-of-the-art La Trobe University Community Children's Centre to accommodate an Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre. The centre opened in June 2010.

  • Adelaide - The Daphne Street Childcare and Specialist Learning Centre Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre
    Anglicare SA Inc, in partnership with the Autism Association of South Australia and Flinders University, has refurbished Anglicare's existing child care centre in Prospect, Adelaide to accommodate an Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre. This centre opened in June 2009.

  • South Western Sydney - The KU Marcia Burgess Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre
    KU Children's Services, in partnership with the Benevolent Society, Sydney South West Area Health Service and the University of New South Wales established an Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre on the same site as KU Children's Services' existing child care centre at Woodward Park, Liverpool. This centre opened in June 2010.

  • Brisbane – The Queensland Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre – AEIOU for children with autism
    AEIOU for children with autism, in partnership with Griffith University, has established an Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre at Griffith University’s Nathan Campus. This centre opened in February 2010.

  • Perth – The Autism Association (WA) Jellybeans Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre
    The Autism Association of Western Australia (AAWA), in partnership with Jellybeans Child Care and the Curtin University of Technology, has refurbished an existing Jellybeans Child Care Centre in Warwick, Western Australia, to accommodate an Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre. This centre opened in February 2010.

  • North West Tasmania – the Burnie City Council
    The Burnie City Council is the provider of the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in North West Tasmania. The Burnie City Council expanded the Alexander Beetle House Children’s Centre to accommodate the new centre’s main campus. The centre will also provide satellite services across the North West region of Tasmania and has been operational from June 2010.

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4. What is the purpose of the centres?

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres provide early learning programs and specific support to children aged zero to six years with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) in a long day care setting. They also provide parents with support in the care of their children and give them the opportunity to participate more fully in the community.

Each centre must be an approved long day care centre with the capacity to deliver a minimum of 20 approved child care places for children aged zero to six years with ASDs. They provide an early learning program and specific support that targets the learning and development needs of young children with ASDs and their families. This program will support the participation of children with ASD in child care and early childhood education and their transition to further educational or therapeutic settings.

Children attending in the year before formal schooling will receive an autism specific early childhood education program. To achieve this, specialists with expertise in the provision of early intervention for children with ASDs will work in partnership with specialists in high quality child care and early childhood education to develop an innovative service model and early learning program. This program will integrate the current evidence base in the ASD, child care and early childhood sectors and commit to further developing understandings of best practice in the context of early learning and child care for children with ASDs.

Centres must be affiliated or in partnership with a relevant university or hospital specialising in paediatric, early childhood or ASD related research or services. Through their affiliations with universities or hospitals, centres must have a research and workforce training component which will contribute to achieving a better understanding of ASDs and increase workforce capacity.

The centres support:

  • The capacity of children with ASDs to participate in child care, early learning and education settings, transition and interact with other children
  • The capacity of parents and carers of children with ASD to participate in the community and manage the needs of their children with ASD
  • The capacity of the ASD Sector to develop strategies to improve access, collaborate to facilitate research and develop best practice and to build workforce capability.

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5. How was the Tasmanian site identified?

The Tasmanian location was announced during the 2007 federal election campaign by the former Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, the then Shadow Minister for Ageing, Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas and the former Federal Member for Braddon, Mr Sid Sidebottom MP.

6. How were the remaining sites identified?

Decisions regarding the remaining locations were informed by ASD child population data. The five sites chosen were identified as being accessible to the most children with ASDs.

7. Why have the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory missed out?

With the exception of North West Tasmania, which was an election commitment, the selected sites were identified based on ASD child population data. Only those sites that were accessible to high numbers of children with recognised ASDs were selected.

Families with children aged zero to six years with ASDs in the Northern Territory (NT) and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will still be able to access existing services for children with ASDs provided by the territory governments and the Australian Government's Helping Children with Autism (HWCA) package, which includes access to autism advisor services, playgroups, individual funding for early intervention (for eligible children) and education and support services.

The Australian Government understands the need to work with the ACT and NT and will work closely with these governments to further build support services for children with ASDs, particularly those in remote and Indigenous communities.

8. How many children can attend each centre?

Each centre is an approved long day care centre with the capacity to deliver a minimum of 20 approved child care places for children aged zero to six years with ASDs and ASD like symptoms.

9. Why are there only six centres and will there be more centres in the future?

In addition to the HCWA package, the Government is establishing six Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres. The Department of Education has responsibility for the broader commitment to establish Early Learning and Care Centres in 38 priority locations.

Evaluation of the centres' success will allow further decisions to be made regarding appropriate early intervention services for children with ASDs and how they are best delivered.

10. How can I obtain further information about the centres?

Further information is available on the DSS Website.

For information on the Early Learning and Care Centres, visit the Department of Education Early Learning and Care Centres Information page.

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Parents and Carers

11. Is my child eligible to attend one of the Autism Early Learning and Care Centres?

Children aged zero to six years with a diagnosis of an ASD or with ASD like symptoms are eligible to attend an Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre.

Centres must allocate places to those children and families with the greatest need for support. There are five levels of priority that Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres must follow when filling vacancies.

  1. a child with a diagnosis of ASD at risk of serious abuse or neglect
  2. children with a diagnosis of ASD attending the year before they are eligible to attend formal schooling
  3. children with a diagnosis of ASD attending the two years before they are eligible to attend formal schooling
  4. any other child with a diagnosis of ASD
  5. any child with ASD like symptoms.

Intake and enrolment of children will be managed by the individual centres.

12. Can I use my Helping Children with Autism funding package at an Early Learning and Care Centre?

No. These centres are being provided with funding by the Australian Government to employ specialist staff.

As an approved long day care provider, centres are eligible for Australian Government financial support for the delivery of approved child care places, including Child Care Benefit.

As each Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre will be provided with funding to employ specialist staff:

  • Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres will not be eligible to claim costs incurred as part of the delivery of services to the 20 autism specific approved child care places through the DSS Early Intervention Service Provider Panel.
  • The early intervention individual support funding cannnot be used at the centres, however, families will still be able to utilise this funding by accessing providers on the FaHCSIA Early Intervention Service Provider Panel. See How do I access funding?

13. Will the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres follow best practice in the autism field?

Service delivery models for the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres must be based on the Early Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guidelines for Best Practice published by Prior and Roberts (2006) and current evidence of best practice in child care and early childhood education for children with special needs. A copy of the Prior and Roberts Guidelines can be obtained by visiting the Department of Health website.

14. Will service delivery in the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres be based on Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA)?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are highly complex and heterogeneous disorders characterised by impairments in social behaviour, communication, and many aspects of learning, as well as fundamental problems in acquiring functional, adaptive, and flexible behaviour (Howlin, 2009).

International guidelines suggest that treatment for ASDs should be individualised to meet the specific characteristics and needs of the child and their family. Given individual and family differences, early intervention programs should be individually designed, taking into account the child’s cognitive level, severity of autistic symptomatology, overall developmental level, chronological age and temperament/personality (New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorders Guide, 2008).

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres’ service delivery models are likely to incorporate ABA strategies. They are also expected to be flexible to meet the needs and strengths of individual children and families. In order to do this, centres need to utilise a ‘tool box’ of intervention strategies. All centres are required to focus on working collaboratively to develop best practice in autism early intervention, as well as early childhood education and child care for children with special needs.

The service delivery models of all Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres must be consistent with guidelines for good practice as described in Early Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: Guidelines for Best Practice (Prior and Roberts, 2006).

Individualised planning and delivery tailored to the needs and strengths of the child and family incorporating evidenced based best practice in autism early intervention, child care and early childhood education will ensure that the best interests of each child are central to their treatment.
Citations:

  1. Howlin, P., Magiati, I., Charman, T. (2009)
    Systematic Review of Early Intensive Behavioural Interventions for Children with Autism.
    American Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
    Vol 114, no 1.

  2. Ministries of Health and Education. (2008).
    New Zealand Autism Spectrum Disorder Guideline.
    Wellington: Ministry of Health
    Published in March 2008 by the Ministry of Health
    PO Box 5013, Wellington, New Zealand
    ISBN: 978-0-478-31257-7 (Book)
    ISBN: 978-0-478-31258-4 (Internet)
    HP4504
    This document is available on the New Zealnd Ministry of Health's Website.

  3. Roberts, J., Prior, M. (2006).
    A Review to Identify the Most Effective Models of Practice in Early Intervention for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
    Australian Government Department of Health and Aging, Australia.
    This document is available on the Department of Health website

15. How do I find out more about enrolling my child in one of the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centres?

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in Melbourne opened in June 2010. Enrolment enquiries should be directed to Jenny Reynolds, Manager, Family and Children’s Services, La Trobe University. Please contact Jenny Reynolds by email or phone 03 94792122

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in Prospect, Adelaide opened in June 2009. Enrolment enquiries should be directed to Sarah Ferguson, Manager, Anglicare SA. Please contact Sarah Ferguson by email or phone (08)8269 8688.

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in South Western Sydney opened in June 2010. Enrolment enquiries should be directed to Pam Macrossan, Children Services Coordinator, KU Marcia Burgess ASELCC. Please contact by email KU Marcia Burgess Autism ; phone (02) 9612 9400.

AEIOU – for children with autism centre in Nathan, Brisbane opened in February 2010. Enrolment enquiries should be directed to the Education and Enrolment Coordinator Katrina Ives. Please contact Katrina Ives by email or phone (07) 3320 7545.

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in Warwick, Perth opened in February 2010. Enrolment enquiries should be directed to Tasha Alach, Manager, WA ASELCC project, Autism Association of Western Australia. Please contact by email Tasha Alach or phone (08) 9489 8900

The Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in North West Tasmania opened in June 2010. Enrolment enquiries should be directed to Kathryn Fordyce, Burnie City Council. Please contact Kathryn Fordyce by email or phone (03) 6430 5779.

16. Will my child have access to early education while at a centre?

Children attending in the year before formal schooling will receive an autism specific early childhood education program. To achieve this, specialists with expertise in the provision of early intervention for children with ASDs will work in partnership with specialists in high quality child care and early childhood education to develop an innovative service model and early learning program.

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Content Updated: 17 April 2014