Is autism spectrum disorder a disability in Australia?

Posted 1 month ago by Georgie Waters
Autism spectrum disorder can pose many challenges for people who receive a diagnosis. [Source: Shutterstock]
Autism spectrum disorder can pose many challenges for people who receive a diagnosis. [Source: Shutterstock]

Autism spectrum disorder can affect people in many different ways.

Key points:

  • Over 205,000 Australian adults and children are estimated to be living with autism spectrum disorder, according to data from 2019
  • ASD is classified as a disability, with support needs ranging from low to high
  • While people with ASD may struggle in certain aspects of life such as in social interactions, they can have high quality of life and enjoyment

Currently, around one percent of children in Australia are estimated to be living with autism spectrum disorder and a total of more than 205,000 Australian adults and children living with ASD, based on data from 2019.

Autism spectrum disorder is listed as a disability on the Australian Government’s Guide to the List of Recognised Disabilities. The diagnostic process must be conducted by either a psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician or registered psychologist who uses set criteria for ASD.

Organisations such as the World Health Organisation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also agree that ASD should be defined as a disability.

Diagnosis often occurs in childhood, however, more adults are being diagnosed with ASD as health and medical professionals understand more about ASD presentation and how it varies between people.

Common difficulties for people with ASD fall into three main categories, namely:

  • social interactions;
  • verbal and nonverbal communication;
  • repetitive or ritualistic behaviours.

While there are similarities in symptoms and signs for adults with ASD, you can read more about what to look out for in young children.

The NDIS can provide support to people living with ASD who are diagnosed with higher support needs. To learn more about ASD and level of support recommendations, you might want to understand what each level of support means. A comprehensive list of the three levels is available.

This does not rule out the reality that people with lower support needs have disability, only that the government is not currently allocating funding to people with lower support needs right now.

Currently, the NDIS ‘benefits all eligible individuals with a significant and permanent disability’, according to information from the official NDIS website. Getting support and funding when you live with ASD can be accessed through the NDIS, depending on the level of support you require.

Although ASD can come with many challenges, including relating to social interactions, this doesn’t always prevent people living with ASD from being productive or gaining employment.

However, finding employment as a person living with ASD may not always be straightforward. Barriers that can act as obstacles to employment for people with ASD include having social anxiety, sensory sensitivities, inflexibility, difficulty handling criticism and a reluctance to share or collaborate with other co-workers. However, with a strong support network and understanding employers, you can find the right job opportunity that suits you.

While many Australians are becoming more aware of the realities of ASD through correct information passed onto them through the media, there are still some misconceptions and myths about ASD.

Similarly, looking after your health is essential, but for some people living with ASD, it may seem out of reach because of sensory barriers. Dental care is an important part of your health and well-being but if the concern of sensory overload keeps you out of the dentist’s chair, there are ways to make your routine dental experiences more comfortable. Read more about it here: Dental care and autism.


Do you have autism spectrum disorder? What are your best coping strategies?

Let the team at Talking Disability know on social media. 

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Relevant content:

Autism spectrum disorder in females: late diagnosis

Autism spectrum disorder: diagnosing with an eye test

How early intervention is helping babies with possible autism spectrum disorder