9 April 2024

Better access to autism diagnosis for remote children

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Fiona Hall

Acting executive director allied health Fiona Hall says the specialist training will help with early autism intervention in remote Cape York and Torres Strait communities. Photo: Supplied.

Children in Cape York and the Torres Strait who may be on the autism spectrum are set to benefit from local staff undergoing specialist diagnosis training.

On the back of World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, more than 30 Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service (TCHHS) clinicians took part in social attention and communication surveillance (SACS) training.

The SACS program is an observation-based developmental surveillance tool which can identify children as young as 12 months old who are likely to be on the autism spectrum.

TCHHS acting executive director allied health Fiona Hall said a recent SACS study showed almost 85 per cent of children considered to have a high likelihood of diagnosis as infants were later officially diagnosed.

“As clinicians, we are so well aware of the benefits early intervention can have on the life of an infant or young child with developmental conditions,” she said.

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The group, including child and maternal health nurses, allied health staff, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers, were among the first in Queensland to receive the training.

“Having so many TCHHS staff trained in utilising this program is a huge benefit to children and their families in our communities,” Ms Hall said.

“With our growing allied health and maternal and child health teams, we are able to put in supports for children and their families across our region who require it.

“Living remotely should not impact on the access children have to the clinical services they need, and TCHHS remains dedicated to bringing care closer to home, particularly to improve the lives if the youngest members of our communities.”

Ms Hall said any families that had concerns should speak to their local hospital or clinic, which have the capacity to refer children to the appropriate service.

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