New autism support program empowers South Australian families

In South Australia, up to 1,300 families with infants showing early signs of autism are set to receive invaluable support through the innovative "Inklings" program.

This groundbreaking initiative, made possible through joint investment by the federal and state governments, underscores a commitment to early intervention and support for families facing autism-related challenges.

Federal Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth highlights the significance of this investment, stating that the $8.4 million funding will provide evidence-based support to families.

“This pilot is not intended to ‘fix’ kids with neurodiversity, it’s about improving parents’ communication with their babies and making sure they have access to the best family-based supports,” she says. 

We know that the early years, particularly the first five years of a child’s life, are critical to later wellbeing. Proactively focusing on care and intervention in this early period is proven to have a huge effect on a child’s life.

The Inklings program, recommended by the Royal Commission into Early Childhood Education and Care in South Australia, aligns with this understanding by targeting infants between the ages of six to 18 months who exhibit early signs of autism.

One unique aspect of the Inklings program is its use of short videos featuring parents interacting with their babies. These videos help parents gain a deeper understanding of their child’s thoughts and feelings, the various ways that babies communicate, the significance of interaction, and the importance of following their baby’s focus of interest. By incorporating practical, hands-on approaches, the program seeks to create a nurturing environment for the infants and enhance their developmental outcomes.

The delivery of the $14.8 million pilot program will be overseen by the South Australian Government in partnership with the Telethon Kids Institute. The program will be implemented across various regions, including Northern Adelaide, Adelaide metro, Lower Eyre, and Far North areas, ensuring accessibility to families from diverse backgrounds and geographic locations.

Crucially, the program will prioritise families from First Nations backgrounds, those with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and those from low-socioeconomic communities. By ensuring accessibility and inclusivity, the program aims to bridge gaps and provide equal opportunities for all families in need.

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