A new report on Australian children with disabilities describes the number of children aged 0-14 years with disabilities, the types of disabilities they have, their experiences in school, and the needs of their carers.
The report, Disability update: children with disabilities, released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, is an update to a comprehensive report on this topic released in 2004.
The new report shows that the vast majority (97%) of school aged children with disabilities attend school, with 89% in mainstream schools and another 9% in special need schools.
Ms Louise York of the Institute's Functioning and Disability Unit said more than half (63%) of the school-aged children did experience some difficulty at school.
'The most common issues were fitting in socially, communication and intellectual and learning difficulties,' Ms York said.
The report estimates that, in 2003, 317,900 children (about one in 12 children or 8.3% of all children) had a disability.
'About half of these children had a severe or profound core activity limitation, which means they need help with basic daily activities,' she said.
The update showed that boys were more likely than girls to have a disability - 10% of boys compared with 6.5% of girls, and more likely to have a severe or profound core activity limitation - 5.4% for boys compared with 3.1% for girls.
Children with conditions such as autism and intellectual impairment were likely to have a severe or profound core activity limitation (87% of children with autism, and 75% of children with an intellectual impairment).
Carers and their needs were also highlighted in the report. The report found that 91% of the primary carers of children with disabilities were the children's mothers.
Most primary carers of children with disabilities spent 40 hours or more a week directly caring for their child.
Of all primary carers surveyed, 48% reported needing more support, with more respite care and more financial assistance.