Editorial : Strive Scores an “A” for Supporting Autism
Editorial for local newspaper
“What a productive year 2008 has been for the Strive Support Group-Supporting Families Living with Autism.
The group formed in October 2007 now has over 60 members (parents, grandparents, carers and teachers) from the Cessnock, Singleton, Maitland and Newcastle areas. This in its self demonstrates how many people are dealing with this issue and how valuable such a service can be supporting them through their journey.
The Strive Support Group has not only provided emotional support to its members, it has allowed them access to healthcare professionals who have extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of Autism. Strive has been fortunate to have had leading experts such as Clinical Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, present at the monthly meetings. Also Government Departments, Private Support Services, and public and private educational representatives have provided valuable information about services and funding available. Most insightful of all have been the presentations from parents of, and children with, Autism Spectrum Disorder.
So successful is the “Strive formula” that the group has been asked to provide information and advice to other parents to enable them to establish similar support groups within their local communities. Strive has also been invited to present at workshops and other Autism conferences.
Such a group cannot continue without the support of its community. Strive Co-ordinator Maxine Baird would like to thank the ANZ bank for their tremendous fundraising efforts, Sonia and Jason Higgins for designing a magnificent website, Cessnock lions Club for their donation and the Cessnock Advertiser for raising the awareness of Autism and the events of Strive.
One in 160 children is diagnosed with Autism-it touches the lives of so many.”
One of our major goals was to lobby for services in our area.
Our August meeting focussed on identifying the needs of families in our areas.
Information collated was sent to relevant Government bodies that sent representatives to a special meeting to discuss the needs in our area and is as follows:
Attendance : Mark Durie (Aspect), Grace Petterson (Hunter Prelude), Cheryl Pringle (Department of Education and Training), Deb Beckwith (Department of Education and Training), Karen Marks (Life Without Barriers), Mandy Pike (Early Links), Jane Hodgson (Local Facilitator Koe-nara), Alan Baird (Strive Support Group), Tracey Harrington (Strive Support Group).
Apologies: Kellie Bland (Department for Aging, Disability and Home Care), Maxine Baird (Strive Support Group)
The individuals attending this special meeting were informed about the monthly Strive Support Group meeting held on Tuesday 12th August, which was attended by a range of parents, carers and educators. The members of the Strive group who attended the 12th August meeting were asked to submit their thoughts on the services needed in the Cessnock area for early intervention for children with Autism.
The main five areas of need were summarised and presented at this special meeting and the responses of those attending were recorded as follows:
- The establishment of an Autism specific intervention class 0-3 centre based, 3-6 (minimum 20 hours per week), 6-12 school based.
- Autism specialised support for children attending mainstream preschool/primary school settings including:
- Autism specific teacher aide training
- Autism specific support/training for teachers including knowledge of Autism, teaching strategies, sensory integration and programming support
- Early inclusion/transition support teachers
- Social skill programs for children
- The establishment of a playgroup for children 0-6 with Autism/special needs with a social skill focus and education and support for parents.
- Increased availability and affordability of professional services such as Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists, paediatricians and psychologists.
- Centralised coordination of support/educational/health services in the form of a telephone hot line, directory, information pack or website to enable parents to become more aware of what is available and to be able to make informed choices when selecting a service that best suits their child.
Due to time restraints the following points were not discussed but were documented and given to those attending. These issues can be raised at our September meeting where DET, Aspect, Early Links, Life With Out Barriers and Prelude will be represented.
- Transition support to primary, high school and the workplace.
- Respite support for families, siblings etc
- After school activities
- Mentor/buddy program to support child in mainstream settings
- Therapies provided by a specific clinic
- Educating GPs and other health professional about the characteristics of Autism to enable an earlier diagnosis
Amazingly the response to this meeting from the attending bodies has resulted directly or indirectly in the formation of:
- an Autism specific intervention class 3 years of age to 6 years of age at the Hunter Prelude in Kurri beginning in 2009 Term 1
- a soccer squad of children aged between 4 and 15 all with ASD training each Thursday with the future goal of organising
- an application to establish a special needs playgroup in the Cessnock area with a volunteer coordinator, an established and resourced site and the commitment of Department of Education to fence it for security reasons.
There are many points that have yet to be addressed from our list and it is our goal that throughout 2009 we will make representations to our local members both state and federal to lobby for these much needed services.
Also we have made donations to a local school of $1000 in recognition of their commitment to improving the educational outcomes of children with ASD.
I think that it is important to thank Maxine Baird for her contribution to the group – for without it I know it would not have formed or survived. Maxine has approached this group as she does with anything in her life and that is with passion and determination. It is remarkable what when one woman strives for the best outcomes for her son she can have such an impact on the lives of so many children and their families in the greater Cessnock community living with ASD.