Autism specific interventions yield high long term returns: AEIOU
The Sector > Workforce > Advocacy > Investing in autism-specific early intervention yields long term dividends, AEIOU finds

Investing in autism-specific early intervention yields long term dividends, AEIOU finds

by Freya Lucas

March 31, 2023
A small child in a pink shirt and hat is shown looking away from the camera, and is being hugged by an educator.

A cost benefit analysis of autism specific early intervention has shown that for every dollar invested into autism-specific early intervention a societal return of $6.16 is released into the community, and from that, a direct cost saving of $4.58 to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).


The findings, part of new research commissioned by AEIOU Foundation, shed new light on developmental gains made by children, quality of life and improved social and economic participation from both individuals as they grow and their families, said AEIOU Founder and Patron Associate Professor James Morton.


“More than an academic study, this is a live, working repository unlike any other in Australia,” he explained, outlining the longitudinal research which relates to 855 children. 


AEIOU Head of Research Ashleigh Bullot said the data relates to a cohort of children with highly complex needs. 


“Our data shows us children at AEIOU, even when presenting with elevated levels of difficulty, make very significant gains, catching up from their developmental delays at rates over and above what would be expected for a typically developing child,” Dr Bullot said. 


“One in three families at AEIOU is Culturally or Linguistically Diverse. In addition, 8 per cent of the cohort identify as First Nations, yet there is very little literature or resources on how to best support this cohort of children and their families in an early education setting.” 


Indigenous studies departments have been approached about using mixed methods to design longitudinal data and qualitative interviews to understand how First Nations people view autism, how autistic children and families want to be supported, and how to work together to achieve the best educational and clinical outcomes for these children to dry and bridge this gap, Dr Bullot added. 


“What this really does is shed new light on a cohort of children that is otherwise not well understood or represented in our community. It also highlights the importance of continued investment in early intervention services.” 


AEIOU’s digital data portal initiative is comprehensively analysing standardised testing results of 855 children enrolled at AEIOU over the past eight years, and Associate Professor Morton said AEIOU is excited to work with government and other stakeholders to leverage the rich information for the benefit of autistic children and their families.


The independent cost benefit analysis of AEIOU’s program, undertaken by Synergy Economics Consulting, showed intensive early intervention programs like AEIOU’s equate to savings of approximately $297,000 per child over the child’s lifetime. 


Synergies Consulting economist Daniel Culpitt said the study shows the trajectory of children’s lives changed dramatically at AEIOU, resulting in significant implications not only for their own lives into the future, but on their families as well. 


“For every dollar that comes in here, more than $6 is saved for the community. We’ve never seen a cost benefit that has such a significant ratio,” Mr Culpitt said. “These breakthrough findings demonstrate the significant and lasting impact on the lives of intensive early intervention autistic children, their families, and wider society.”


To learn more about the foundation, please see here

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