Call for funding of Autism treatment

Luke Parker
Call for funding of Autism treatment

A treatment getting significant results with autistic children in the United States should be publicly funded here, according to a health professional.

A recent New York Times piece, ‘The kids who beat autism’, documents a mother’s desperation to help her three year old son with the developmental disorder. After trying multiple treatments, she came across Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) while reading a book and starting using it. The results have amazed her.

ABA breaks down every day actions into tiny, learnable steps, acquired through memorisation and endless repetition.

The treatment does not work for every one with the NY Times article noting another child treated with ABA achieved minimal improvement.

Autism New Zealand Wellington Outreach Coordinator, Veerle Van Cooten, said it is estimated over 65,000 Kiwis sit somewhere in the autism spectrum and 20% of these are children under the age of 15.

She says some Kiwi families are using ABA therapy although it is not publicly funded and is very expensive.

“There are very few trained practitioners in New Zealand so some parents will find ways to access this at their own cost,” she said.

“As far as I know it’s one of the treatments with the strongest and most promising evidence behind its effectiveness.”

She says the Autism Intervention Trust has been helping families to access ABA therapy for years but recently is now prioritising to find funding for research rather than an individual’s treatment.

“I’m not an expert (in ABA) but I do believe it’s worthwhile and we should be pushing to get funding available for this treatment, or other treatments based on ABA principles.”

Music is also seen as a way of treating autism. In the US, a touching documentary crowdfunded on Kickstarter was released online earlier this year featuring two autistic young men in Michigan who have run a low budget but popular music show for 13 years.

Each episode ends with the two doing a crazy but highly entertaining dance.

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