The answer is deceptively simple. Evidenced-based practice research has concluded strongly that, subject to the functioning of each individual child, early intervention for children aged five years and under with a disability such as autism can greatly improve a child’s chances of leading a normal lifestyle. READ THAT AGAIN – SLOWLY THIS TIME BECAUSE IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT
This research demonstrates that during these important early years access to therapy is vital to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in developing the much needed social and learning skills for their future.
There are many sponsored therapies available to children who are autistic once school age is attained, BUT these benefits are not available, except at high cost to parents, for pre-school children.
Recognising this, in 2011 Lugarno Lions researched the costs involved in providing one typical form of early intervention pre-school autistic education, ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis) therapy by qualified health professionals. It is important to note that ABA is NOT the only way forward. Indeed individual therapy with an occupational therapist or speech pathologist is often just as effective as the much more expensive ABA therapy.
However we decided that we had to make a start so we looked for the most cost-effective option which included having the ABA therapy carried out in the child`s home by qualified therapists and supervisors, supervised and managed by Medicare accredited allied health providers
A Medicare accredited organisation provided costs of this intervention based on the use of therapists employed by that organisation as:
- Therapy of 4 hours per day for 5 days a week (20 hours/week) costs $4,500 / month - $54,000 a year. Note 1
- Therapy of 7 hours per day for 5 days a week (35 hours/week) costs $7,000 / month - $85,000 a year. Note 2
Of course families vary their pattern of usage of the services of therapy providers - some pay to have family members trained as therapists, some pay to train non-family therapists and employ them directly, some do a bit of both. This does reduce costs but the therapists are continually guided by an ABA professional who conducts a fortnightly conference and guidance session (which, of course, comes at an additional cost.)
Note 1. A child receiving 20 hours of ABA each week would likely be attending a preschool autistic class at a special school for disabled children such as the Sylvanvale Foundation in the Sutherland Shire. The additional cost for two days of preschool each week is $10,000 per year, bringing the total to $64,000.
Note 2. A child receiving 35 hours of therapy in a home schooling environment would not normally attend a special school for autistically disabled pre-schoolers with Autism Spectrum Disorder.