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Comedian Em Rusciano has called on the National Disability Insurance Scheme to fund treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and called for greater sensitivity in treating families of autistic children.
Rusciano, who has a daughter with ADHD and a son with autism, told the National Press Club on Wednesday that families were being treated as “guilty until proven guilty” as they tried to access the program.
She said she was encouraged to bring her son “on the brink of an autism crisis” before a treatment session so his NDIS social worker could “witness it rather than take my word for it”.
“I have to prove how hard my life is with my son and I have to say and report things that no mother should have to do,” Rusciano said.
“You have to say the worst. You have to put on a show…I have heard mothers being asked if you had to call the police about your child or if your child was ever in danger. These questions are unacceptable.
Rusciano said ADHD testing and therapy was “extremely expensive”, running into the thousands of dollars a year, which was “out of reach for many Australian families”.
“We need proper government recognition and support, ADHD needs to be included in the NDIS as a primary disability,” she said.
“Even though ADHD was recognized as a disability in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, it does not appear on the list of disabilities supported by the NDIS.”
Rusciano also used his speech to dismiss claims that an increase in social media discussions about ADHD meant the disorder was a fad.
She said the social isolation of the pandemic prompted her to seek professional help after “lockdown took away all my usual routines and all the things that help me function, which exacerbated my symptoms. undiagnosed ADHD”.
“I had built a house of cards of coping mechanisms that got smashed on the ground, and I went to my doctor,” the comedian said.
The isolation of COVID-19 restrictions has also caused an increase in social media content by people with the disorder, she said.
“A lot of us took to social media to connect and a lot of us started talking about our weird super-niche symptoms, exhausting things, and then when we found a whole community of other like-minded people,” Rusciano said.
“We got together and we made TikToks and Instagrams and let us have that! And if some of you are so sick of seeing it, oh imagine living with it.
She dismissed claims that ADHD was a social media fad that was “growing in popularity” and said the phenomenon was an indication that “visibility is increasing”.
Rusciano said there were obstacles to diagnosis from GPs who didn’t “necessarily believe in ADHD for adults” and difficulties in finding appointments with a psychiatrist.