Last week Bernie Finn (the Member for Western Metropolitan Region, and the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Autism Spectrum Disorder) raised, in Parliament, a pilot initiative that the practitioners at Ladybug House are hoping to get off the ground. They want to be able to create awareness about the Autism Spectrum Disorder within the police force and other emergency services. The transcript is reproduced below and identifies the benefits to the community. Lets hope the Police Minister supports it!
"Mr FINN(Western Metropolitan) — I wish to raise a matter for the attention of the Minister for Police. I am sure everybody in this house, indeed everybody in the community, was overjoyed when young Luke Shambrook was found after he went missing at Eildon a couple of weeks ago. However, this raises a very important matter, which is the way police and emergency service workers handle people with autism. In Luke's situation it was frequently said that emergency service workers may have had difficulty looking for Luke because he may have thought they were playing a game and been hiding from them. This raises an issue of how autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is handled by police. As a result of that a director of Ladybug House, a small business in my electorate which specialises in providing allied health services to children with ASD, has come to me with a suggestion to provide two 1-hour ASD awareness seminars at the Moonee Ponds and Sunshine police stations in June this year. According to Ladybug House:
"The pilot objective is to assess the reported benefits to the police officers understanding individuals with ASD and if successful extend the program out to other police stations and emergency services personnel."
I think this is a particularly good idea, given that the incidence of ASD has increased enormously over recent years. Ladybug House is hoping that this program will achieve the following objective:
Create awareness of the differences in how individuals with autism experience the world so that the police officers can better adapt their communication strategies to deliver outcomes that benefit the individual and the community.
I am sure that the house can see some major benefits from this. The pilot is targeted at police officers but could very easily be extended to other emergency services personnel. As a parent of a child with autism I was shocked and very fearful when young Luke went missing, because in years gone by our little bloke could have just as easily wandered off, as he was what is known in the autism area as a 'runner'. You had to keep an eye on him all the time, and nothing much has changed over the years. I was delighted and thrilled, and in fact I got a bit teary, when I heard that Luke had been found, but this sort of program would help police and emergency service workers faced with a similar problem in the future. I ask the minister to give this consideration and approval."