ASD service concern

Family and Community Development Committee chairwoman Maree Edwards oversaw the Parliamentary Inquiry at Swan Hill Town Hall yesterday.

Family and Community Development Committee chairwoman Maree Edwards oversaw the Parliamentary Inquiry at Swan Hill Town Hall yesterday.

Mallee residents had their say on local services for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at a public inquiry yesterday.

The state government's Family and Community Development Committee heard submissions from the parents of children who were diagnosed with ASD.

The consensus throughout the submissions was a lack of service capability in Swan Hill for those with ASD. 

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh said the committee's visit was the result of a written invitation from him.

"It was important for them to hear first hand from people in our region and hopefully changes will be made," Mr Walsh said.

"I want city MPs to understand the distances, the time and the cost that these families have to deal with.

"Families often have to drive very far to access the services their children need. There is definitely a need for additional services in regional communities like Swan Hill."

Family and Community Development Committee chairwoman Maree Edwards said it was important for an inquiry to have hearings in regional areas.

"There are many specialist schools in regional and rural Victoria that have students on the autism spectrum," Ms Edwards.

"It's important to hear from as many people as we can to get as big of a scope as possible.

"I really appreciate people taking the time out (in) their busy day to have their say on the issue and present their submissions to the inquiry.

"It will be a little while before we know specifically what needs to be done, but the public hearings that have already been held have all indicated that there is a shortage of services in regional communities."

During the submissions, Swan Hill District Health chief speech pathologist Leonie Baker said a lot of families in Swan Hill didn't have the ability to travel to services.

"There is a paediatrician who comes from Bendigo a few times a month," she said.

"I think going to a paediatrician and getting a referral is really important for early diagnosis of ASD, and that's what falls down for us."

To read more about this story, grab a copy of Wednesday's Guardian (February 15).

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