ESSA urges a stop to funding cuts for exercise physiology services for those living with Autism

Friday, 1 April 2022

This Saturday, 2 April is World Autism Awareness Day, a day to raise awareness, acceptance and understanding of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Exercise and Sports Science Australia (ESSA) would like to specifically address the physical therapy needs of people with ASD this World Autism Awareness Day and to address the lesser recognised gross motor and sensory motor issues experienced by this group.

“ASD is a complex disorder, affecting each person very differently. The complexity and variability of this condition highlight the need for a variety of therapies to be available and accessible to people with ASD,” commented Anita Hobson-Powell, CEO of ESSA.

“Many Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) that work under the NDIS see clients that have ASD and have seen significant improvements in gross motor and sensory motor function, resulting from their exercise treatment. Yet many people with ASD are seeing significant cuts to exercise physiology funding within their NDIS plans.”

The world leading authority for autism research, the Centre for Autism Research, found in their 2021 review that motor challenges in ASD are pervasive, clinically meaningful and highly under recognised, with up to 87% of the autistic population affected but only a small percentage receiving motor-focused clinical care.

The Centre for Autism Research review also recommended explicit recognition of motor impairment within the DSM-5, the tool which the NDIA use to determine NDIS access and eligibility for people with ASD, and that motor differences in ASD deserves more clinical attention and incorporation into screening, evaluation and treatment plans.

“For many people with ASD, NDIS funding can be the only way they can access the proven benefits of exercise physiology. Our AEPs work with many clients who have varying degrees of autism and numerous successful stories have been shared from these clients who have thrived from having exercise programs” Anita noted.

“We call on the NDIA to recognise the pervasive gross motor and sensory motor impairments that impact children and adults with ASD. In addition to the current criteria of the DSM-5, so that people with ASD have timely access the exercise physiology supports they need with their NDIS funding.”

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