4430.0 - Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018 Quality Declaration 
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Children with Disability

Many Australian children are affected by disability. These disabilities can impact a child's health, communication, mobility or learning which can have profound effects on the child's social engagement and education. For primary carer parents and their families, raising a child with disability can have significant effects on many aspects of family life. This article focuses on children aged under 15 years and living in households.

In 2018,

    • 357,500 or 7.7% of children under 15 were reported as having disability
    • the proportion of children with disability increased from 6.9% (295,900) in 2012.

Definitions:
Disability - any limitation, restriction or impairment which restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is likely to last, for at least six months. For more information see the Glossary.


Age and sex

The prevalence of disability increased with age, from 3.7% of children aged 0-4 years to 9.6% of those aged 5-14 years.

Boys were more likely than girls to have disability (9.6% or 230,100 boys compared with 5.7% or 128,700 girls). This was also reflected in the different age groups, with 4.8% of boys (38,100) in the 0-4 year age group reporting disability compared with 2.7% of girls (20,200); while 11.9% of boys (189,300) aged 5-14 years reported disability compared with 7.1% of girls (107,700).


Children aged 0-14(a), disability prevalence by age group and sex, 2018
Graph shows that boys were more likely than girls to have disability, including in the two age groups (0-4 and 5-14).
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Children in inner regional areas were more likely to have disability than children in major cities (10.4% or 80,400 compared with 7.0% or 239,700). However, boys in inner regional areas were twice as likely as girls in inner regional areas to have disability (13.5% or 52,800 boys compared with 6.6% or 25,100 girls).


Severity of disability

Of all children, 4.5% (209,300) had profound or severe disability and 1.6% (72,800) had moderate or mild disability. Boys were twice as likely as girls to have profound or severe limitations (6.0% or 143,800 compared with 3.0% or 67,200).


Conceptual framework: children living in households aged 0-14 years. 2018
CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: CHILDREN LIVING IN HOUSEHOLDS AGED 0-14 YEARS, 2018
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Definitions:
Profound limitation - greatest need for help, that is, always needs help with at least one core activity
Severe limitation
- needs help sometimes or has difficulty with a core activity
Moderate limitation
- no need for help but has difficulty
Mild limitation
- no need for help and no difficulty, but uses aids or has limitations
Restriction (education) - difficulty participating, needs assistance from another person or uses an aid or equipment in schooling.
Limitation -
a person has a limitation if they have difficulty, need assistance from another person, or use an aid or other equipment to perform one or more core activities (communication, mobility and self-care). ) For more information on the terms used, refer to the Glossary and appendices associated with this publication.

Image shows:
All children: 4,660,800 (100%), made up of:
  • All children without disability: 4,304,700 (92.4%)
  • All children with disability: 357,500 (7.7%), comprising Children with disability without specific limitations or restriction: 40,200 (0.9%) and Children with disability with specific limitations or restrictions 315,200 (6.8%).
  • This Children with disability with specific limitations or restrictions group(a) (40,200 (0.9%)) comprises Children with disability with schooling restriction only: 35,600 (0.8%) and Children with disability with core activity limitation(b): 280,400 (6.0%).
  • The Children with disability with core activity limitation(b) group (280,400 (6.0%)) comprises Children with disability with profound core activity limitation: 125,900 (2.7%), and Children with disability with severe core activity limitation: 84,800 (1.8%), and Children with disability with moderate core activity limitation: 9,000 (0.2%), and Children with disability with mild core activity limitation: 62,100 (1.3%).


Disability groups

What were the most common groups of disability?

Intellectual disability was the most common disability group affecting children in 2018. Around one in twenty two children had intellectual disability (4.5% or 208,800), followed by sensory and speech disability (3.1% or 146,800) and psychosocial disability (2.7% or 127,200).


Children aged 0-14 years(a), proportion with selected disability group(b), 2018
Graph shows that intellectual disability was the most common disability group for children aged 0-14, followed by sensory disability and psychosocial disability.
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
(b) Children can be classified into more than one disability group
(c) Other' includes limitations, restrictions or impairments reported by the respondent which fall outside the standard disability types as classified in the SDAC, however restricts everyday activities and has lasted, or is expected to last, for at least 6 months
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Definitions: For more information on the terms used, refer to ‘Appendix 2 – Disability Groups’ associated with this publication.


How did disability groups vary by age and sex?

The groups of disability that affected children varied somewhat with age and sex. It is important to note, however, that the diagnosis of mental disorders in younger children can be very complex. Often children do not receive a formal diagnosis until they reach school age.

Boys aged 0 to 14 years were twice as likely as girls of the same age to report sensory and speech disability (4.2% or 101,100 compared with 2.1% or 47,300) and almost twice as likely to report intellectual disability (5.8% or 137,800 compared with 3.1% or 70,600).

Older children were more likely than younger children to report intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. In 2018, 6.1% (189,200) of children aged 5-14 years with disability had an intellectual disability, over five times the proportion of children aged 0-4 years (1.1% or 17,800).

Similarly, 3.7% of children aged 5-14 years (115,900) reported psychosocial disability, over four times the proportion of the 0-4 year age group (0.8% or 12,600).

Physical disabilities were also more commonly reported by older children aged 5-14 (2.1% or 65,300) than younger children aged 0-4 (1.0% or 15,100).


Children with disability(a), proportion with selected disability group(b) by age, 2018
Graph shows that children in the older age group (5-14) were more likely to report intellectual, psychosocial and physical disabilities than children in the younger age group (0-4).
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
(b) Children can be classified into more than one disability group
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018


Long-term health conditions of children with disability

Children may experience a variety of long-term health conditions, including multiple conditions coexisting, though only some of these conditions will have a disabling impact. In 2018, three quarters (74.0% or 264,700) of children under 15 with disability reported a mental and behavioural disorder, and just over half reported a physical condition (52.7% or 188,400).

Of all children with disability, boys were more likely than girls to report mental and behavioural disorders (77.0% or 177,200 boys compared with 68.3% or 87,900 girls) while girls were more likely to report physical conditions (59.0% or 75,900 girls compared with 48.2% or 110,800 boys).

Children aged 0-14 with disability(a), proportion with long-term health conditions(b)(c), by Sex, 2018
Graph shows that boys were more likely than girls to report mental and behavioural disorders, while girls were more likely to report physical conditions.
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
(b) Conditions which have lasted, or are expected to last, six months or more
(c) Children can be classified into more than one group of conditions
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018


What types of conditions were most common?

The long-term health conditions most commonly reported amongst children with disability were autism and related disorders which affected one quarter of all children with disability (26.8% or 95,800), asthma (16.5% or 59,100) and attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity which both affected around one in six children with disability (15% or 53,800). The proportion of children with disability who reported phobic and anxiety disorders increased from 9.4% (30,900) in 2015 to 13.7% (49,000) in 2018. Overall, there were no other significant changes in the proportion of children reporting selected conditions between 2015 and 2018.

Definitions:
Long-term health condition - a disease or disorder that has lasted, or is likely to last, for six months or more. The SDAC collects information about long-term health conditions and through a series of screening questions, determines whether they restrict a person’s ability to do activities. People whose long-term conditions limit their activities are identified as having disability.


Need for and receipt of assistance

How many children with disability needed assistance?

In 2018, three quarters of children with disability had a need for assistance with at least one activity (73.9% or 264,300). Children with disability were most likely to need assistance with cognitive or emotional activities (59.3% or 212,000), followed by communication (38.2% or 136,700), mobility (36.1% or 128,900), self-care (32.0% or 114,300) and health care (27.9% or 99,800).

Overall, boys were more likely than girls to need assistance with self-care activities (35.1% or 80,700 compared with 25.2% or 32,400) and cognitive or emotional activities (64.9% or 149,400 compared with 49.0% or 63,100).


Proportion of Children aged 0-14 years with disability(a), activities for which assistance needed(b), by sex, 2018
Graph shows that children with disability most commonly needed assistance with cognitive or emotional tasks (59.3%).
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
(b) Proportions may sum to more than 100% as respondents could report needing assistance with more than one activity
(c) Children aged 5 years and over
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018


How many children received assistance?

Of the 264,300 children aged 0-14 with disability who needed assistance with at least one activity, almost all were receiving some form of assistance (97.2% or 256,800).

Children with disability who needed assistance were most likely to receive help with cognitive or emotional tasks (77.4% or 204,700) while almost half received assistance with communication (48.1% or 127,200) and mobility (45.3% or 119,600).


Schooling

Regardless of where their education is received, children with disability have a right to the same educational opportunities as all Australian children. In 2018, among school aged children (5 to 14 years) with disability, almost all (95.8% or 285,500) attended school. Of these, nearly one third attended special classes or special schools (31.2% or 89,000).

What types of difficulty were experienced at school?

Four out of every five children with disability attending school (aged 5-14 years) had an educational restriction (83.0% or 151,700 compared with 76.4% or 79,500).

Two thirds of children with disability and attending school experienced difficulties at school (66.5% or 190,000). Nearly half reported learning difficulties (48.7% or 138,900) and over one third had difficulties fitting in socially (38.8% or 110,900). Boys were more likely than girls to have communication difficulties (35.2% or 64,400 compared with 21.1% or 21,900).


Children aged 0-14 years with disability and attending school(a) by selected difficulties experienced at school(b), by sex, 2018
Graph shows that boys were more likely than girls to experience communication difficulties at school.
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
(b) Children can report more than one difficulty
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018


What supports are available?

There are a range of different support and assistance options available for school children with disability. In 2018, over half of all children with disability who attended school accessed a support or special arrangement (58.6% or 167,400). Around one third accessed special tuition (36.8% or 105,200) while around one quarter accessed a counsellor or special support person (23.2% or 66,100).

Of those children who received support or special arrangements, over one third (36.1% or 60,500) reported that they needed more support.


Children aged 0-14 years with disability and attending school(a) by selected type of support received at school(b), 2018
Graph shows that one third (36.8%) of children with disability attending school received special tuition.
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
(b) Children can have accessed more than one support
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018


Impact of caring on parents

In 2018, there were 136,000 primary carers who were caring for their own child aged 0 to 14 years with a profound or severe core activity limitation. While there are a range of organised services available to assist a person in their caring role, the satisfaction with these services varied among carers, as did the impact of the many costs and effects of their caring role on the whole family.

Were parent carers satisfied with available supports?

One in five parent primary carers were dissatisfied with the range of organised services available to assist them with caring for their child (19.1% or 26,000) while 32.9% (44,800) were satisfied and a further 22.8% were neither satisfied or dissatisfied (31,000).

Nearly three in five (57.4% or 78,100) parent primary carers reported that they needed an improvement or more support to assist them in their caring role, an increase from 46.4% (54,700) in 2015.


Parent primary carers of children aged 0-14 years with disability(a), whether needs improvement or more support to assist in caring role, 2012, 2015, 2018
Graph shows the increase since 2012 of parent primary carers reporting a need for improvement or support to assist them in their caring role.
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018


What are the main impacts of the caring role?

Among parent primary carers, the effect of their caring role on family relationships varied:
    • around one in four with a spouse or partner reported their relationship with them was unaffected (24.2% or 25,900), while 21.1% (22,600) reported relationship strain
    • around one in four reported a lack of alone time together with their spouse (23.2% or 24,900).
    • one quarter reported their relationships with other co-resident family members were unaffected (25.2% or 34,300), while one third reported the main effect of their caring role was having less time to spend with other co-resident family members (34.0% or 46,200).

One third of parent primary carers reported that the main financial impact of their caring role was a decreased income (37.7% or 51,300) and another one third reported an increase in their expenses (35.3% or 48,000).

Almost half of parent primary carers who were employed (45.5% or 35,800) said they had reduced the weekly hours they worked in all jobs since commencing the caring role.


Parent primary carers of children aged 0-14 years with disability(a), main effect of caring role on relationship with spouse or partner(b), 2018
Graph shows that 24.2% of primary carer parents with a spouse reported that their relationship with their spouse was unaffected while 23.2% reported a lack of alone time together.
Footnote(s):
(a) Living in households
(b) Parent primary carers with a spouse or partner
Source(s): ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers: Summary of Findings 2018

Definitions:
Primary carer - a person aged 15 years and over who provides the most informal assistance to a person with disability for the core activities of mobility, self-care and communication


Results relating to 2015 data can be found in the 2015 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (ABS cat. No. 4430.0).