Group faces large shortfall

Otago Children's Autism Group secretary Lynlee von Ballmoos and her two sons Regan (13) and...
Otago Children's Autism Group secretary Lynlee von Ballmoos and her two sons Regan (13) and Hayden (11), who have benefited from the group since it was formed in 2004. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Parents in Otago with autistic children are faced with raising $145,000 to ensure the continuity of a therapy programme.

Otago Children's Autism Support Group, set up in 2004 to help fund therapy, supports 15 children in the region.

With no government support, the trust relies on grants, donations and fundraising to pay therapists' wages and for training, and for the education of parents, teachers and the community.

However, ''at the moment we are down to nothing'', trust secretary Lynlee von Ballmoos, of Dunedin, said yesterday.

The trust had applied for three grants, ''with fingers crossed''.

The funding is for the Applied Behaviour Analysis therapy programme (ABA), which can cost between $11,000 and $17,000 a month.

Often a preschool programme, it targets individual learning, including one-on-one teaching at home and in school. Mrs von Ballmoos has two children with autism, Regan (13) and Hayden (11).

Regan had attended ABA therapy since the trust began and it had helped him live life in the mainstream. ''I put it down to the therapy. I don't think he would be where he is now without it,'' Mrs von Ballmoos said.

Hayden had non-verbal autism and his therapy was based on learning general life skills.

Many of the children had been having therapy up to 20 hours a week, she said.

However, because of the funding shortfall, families had been limited to 12 and a-half hours a week, and two Oamaru families had pulled out of therapy this year because of the cost.

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