AAWA early childhood services manager Annika Renz said the campaign was important to increase the community’s awareness and understanding of the condition while making families aware of where they can find support.
‘Hopefully when more people have a better understanding of how autism impacts on families’ lives, the general public will be better equipped to support these families,’ she said.
One organisation Ms Renz said supported these families was the Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in Bedford.
She said it was the only specialist long day care for children with autism in WA and one of six in Australia.
‘The centre offers an autism specific program and curriculum, which incorporates the Early Years Learning Framework,’ she said.
‘Children are supported in a highly structured and supportive learning environment with a staff-to-child ratio of one to four.
‘The quality early learning program is based on the individual needs of each child, and focuses on the development of communication, social, daily living and motor skills, fostering each child’s participation and independence.’
Ms Renz said the centre’s Specialist Early Learning and Care program assisted 50 children and families a week with all children attending two or more days each week.
She said all the children showed significant progress and improvement in a number of developmental areas.
‘It is extremely rewarding to see the children developing their communication skills, extending their attention span, getting more comfortable and confident with social interactions and participating and completing tasks independently,’ she said.
‘Every small success and huge breakthrough the children make are celebrated by the families and the trans-disciplinary team.’
– See page 10 for an inspirational story about Patrick Barter, a young man with autism who is making the most of his talents.