Em Rusciano calls for people with ADHD to get access to disability insurance

Currently one in 20 Aussies live with ADHD
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Radio personality and comedian Em Rusciano has used a National Press Club address to call for ADHD to be added to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was recognised as a disability in 1992 but isn’t currently covered by the NDIS.

WATCH BELOW: Em Rusciano calls for ADHD to be added to the NDIS

People with ADHD need proper “government recognition and support,” Em told the crowd.

“ADHD needs to be included in the NDIS as a primary disability,” she said.

Around one-in-20 Australians have ADHD, but Em pointed out that until recently it was considered to mostly affect young boys. This mischaracterisation has led many people to remain undiagnosed until adulthood. 

“I associated it with hyperactive 10-year-old boys who should avoid red cordial, certainly not 42-year-old anxiety-ridden adult women who are chronically exhausted all of the time,” Em said.

“I felt a deep sadness for that precocious, curious, and chaotic 10-year-old girl who desperately wanted to get things right, the girl who tried hard all the time, and who just wanted to be like everyone else.”

Em spoke to the National Press Club
Em spoke to the National Press Club (Credit: Instagram)

Adding ADHD to the NDIS would allow people who experience ADHD and their family to access greater support. This could relieve the cost of diagnosis and treatment which at the moment can leave families thousands of dollars out of pocket.

According to a 2020 survey, parents of young people with ADHD spend over $5000 a year to support their child, this jumps to over $6000 if a parent also has ADHD. 

Currently only one-in-70 adults receive support from the NDIS for ADHD symptoms. 

A subsidised prescription to certain ADHD medications, such as Vyvanse, requires the patient to have been diagnosed while still in high school. A non-subsidised prescription costs in excess of $100 per month.

What is ADHD?

It is understood ADHD comes from deficiencies in the brain’s neurotransmitter systems, most notably dopamine (which regulates motivation, risk and reward) and noradrenaline (which regulates our capacity to pay attention).

However, as with most neurodevelopmental disorders, how ADHD presents will differ from person to person. Even the title itself can be misleading, since some people may experience more attention deficit symptoms and others more hyperactivity.

Many adults go undiagnosed with ADHD as they learn to mask their symptoms or wave them off as personal quirks.

Em herself experienced this for much of her life, as others “joked” that her bad memory, lack of organisation and fast speech patterns were due to ADHD.

Em getting ready for her presentation
Em was diagnosed at 42 (Credit: Instagram)

Why is ADHD more prominent these days?

Speaking to Channel Nine’s Today show, psychologist Sandy Rea explained there has been an uptick in ADHD diagnosis because experts have begun to recognise it presents differently in women.

“They get exhausted from managing tasks and often feel disorganised… [they might] suffer from low self-esteem and anxiety and depression,” she said. 

“They have been mistakenly diagnosed as having anxiety or depression or a mood disorder when it is in fact ADHD.”

Getting help for ADHD can be an expensive journey. While a GP can suggest you might have ADHD, a proper assessment can only be completed by a qualified psychiatrist. For adults this almost always means going through the private sector. 

There have been calls to upskill GPs in ADHD diagnosis but at this point it’s still quite rare to find a GP that has proper training in the disorder. 

Em on The Project
Friends ‘joked’ that she had ADHD because of the way she talked (Credit: Instagram)

For now, Em is calling on everyone to support those around them who experience ADHD or other neuro-disorders. 

“The reason that I eventually agreed to give you this speech was because I wanted to make sure that all of you here today and everyone watching from wherever you are … that you get it, that more people get it,” she said.

“Don’t treat them like there’s something wrong with them.

“Be bigger than that, be better than that, be kinder than that.”


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