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Roger Law, Secretary of ATAC [Action For Tasmanian Autistic Children], said that the meeting on Thursday with the Education Minister, David Bartlett, was a farce.

Mr Law said that from the very beginning Mr Bartlett had tried to avoid meeting with the parents of children with autistic Spectrum Disorder [ASD] who had come to Hobart to represent families from all over the State.

"It appeared he was frightened of meeting with those who are directly affected by the lack of services for their children," he said.

When Mr Bartlett finally did agree to meet with the parents, he announced that he could only spare a half hour to talk with them.

"He wasted five minutes of that time walking round the table shaking hands and introducing himself."

"He then opened by making the facile and stupid remark that is always made by shallow people with no understanding of Autism and its treatment, namely that autistic children are all different, that he didn't believe that one treatment suits all, and that was why a variety of treatments were used."

"This inanity is always said in a sincere and compassionate tone, and is good for a short sound byte for the media. It looks and sounds good but it is utter nonsense." Mr Law said. " Everybody is different whether they are autistic or not. All diabetics are different, but we adjust their treatment to take account of their differences, " he said. " We don't mix and match, give half insulin and half carrot juice and see if it works. We stick to scientifically proven methods, we don't introduce unscientific quackery because people are different."

The Minister then went on to tell those present how much extra money he was going to spend on special needs in the next year. A delegate from the East Coast, a young mother, then asked him what new services he would be providing as she had been unable to get any services for her two autistic children for the past seven years. She went on to ask who she could contact so that she could get hers sons into them. Mr Bartlett's only response was to tell her not to be angry, and then to completely ignore her when she calmly persisted with her enquiry.

" When she was later congratulated for standing up to this bullying by the Minister, she said she was used to it, because when she caught her autistic son telling lies, he always attacks her and blames her, and never accepts any responsibility, just like the Minister!." said Mr Law.

ATAC had now had a chance to analyse the Minister's 'extra' finance, Mr Law continued, and it appears he was talking about the extra costs associated with the recent wage agreement for teachers and aides, and that are no new services for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder to be provided by the State Government.

Mr Law said that ATAC presented a submission clearly disagreeing with the Minister's statements that things were getting better, and outlining the weaknesses in his services, and the need for new programmes for children with ASD. Either unable to comprehend the issues, or not able to debate the points the submission raised, Mr Bartlett interrupted and, refusing to continue discussing these issues, said he wanted to hear from the parents.

When all the parents began telling him of the need for evidence-based programmes for their children, and telling him of the failure of his Department to provide their children with adequate services, Mr Bartlett declared that he couldn't deal with individual cases and that the half-hour was up and that he had to go.

As he stalked from the room, Mr Law said, he declared that in future he would only speak with organisations that agreed with him.

Mr Law said that over a long period he had dealt with many Ministers, and that this was the most extraordinary performance by a Minister that he had ever witnessed.

"The Minister has clearly lost touch with reality,"Mr Law went on to say." He appears to have surrounded himself with a small group of policy advisers and so-called experts who play to his vanity and ambitions, and he has lost touch with reality."

Mr Law said that faced with a group of parents determined to fight for their children's futures Mr Bartlett had been forced to face the fact that his policies and practices for autistic children were inadequate. This fact had stressed him so much that he fled from the meeting rather than face what was really happening.

Mr Law said that the Minister was clearly breaking down under the stress of the important position he now held.

"He clearly does not have the intellectual capacity to analyse and deal with the problems in his Department, and has retreated into denial and uttering good news sound bytes for the media. Clearly Mr Bartlett's ambitions are far ahead of his abilities at this stage of his career, and he needs to concentrate on solving the problems in his Department instead of chasing dreams. "

Mr Law said that following the meeting with Mr Bartlett, ATAC delegates had discussed these issues, and had welcomed the Premier's statement that he intended to deal with the issue of making the State's children safe.

"They have instructed me to seek a meeting with the Premier to discuss the problems of the most vulnerable children in the State with him, "Mr Law said.



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A.T.A.C's website: http://www.atacc.biz/atac/





ATAC - Action for Tasmanian Autistic Children!