The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, combined with greater awareness in schools and the broader community, is seeing a growing number of people better understand the complexities of Autism Spectrum Disorder and, most importantly, how children and families can be supported in school and life.
It’s hard to believe that parents were once forced to struggle alone to understand their child’s unique, and sometimes concerning, behaviours. Those days are long gone thanks to quality research-driven expertise and the development of evidence-based programs and services by Inclusive Directions.
Chief Executive Officer, Jocelyn Graham, says increased understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder has been driven by the long-standing partnership between Flinders University and Inclusive Directions.
“From the moment we opened our doors 30 years ago we’ve sought to deliver best-practice programs and take a leadership role in delivering inclusive education and care,” Jocelyn says.
“Inclusive Directions was proud to recently expand its programs in Mt Gambier, and we now offer plan and case management services designed to help families to understand, navigate and make the most of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
“Our Flinders Early Intervention Program is also now available, and has been created by world-leading, Adelaide-based researchers who work alongside children and families in a relaxed and fun environment.”
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism is a condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to their environment and how they interact with others.
Helpfully, the word spectrum points to the wide-ranging level of difficulties that children may experience and the degree to which they may be affected.
Jocelyn says some children need very little assistance, while others have learning challenges that require advanced specialist support.
“Typically, the most common areas of difficulty for children are in social communication, social interaction and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests,” she says.
“Others may also have unusual sensory interests, such as intently watching moving objects, sensory sensitivities such as an aversion to everyday sounds and textures, and intellectual impairment or learning difficulties.
“Once a child is diagnosed with ASD, it opens access to government funding entitlements and services, and is an important first step in understanding that child’s development and unusual interests or behaviours.
“The next – and most critical – step is to develop a personalised management plan for the whole family to help the child to develop and grow.”
Flinders Early Intervention Program
Jocelyn says research has shown that children are most responsive to intervention in their early years, and while coming to terms with a diagnosis can be a difficult time, it allows families to make decisions about early intervention programs, learn more about autism and plan for the future.
“Research suggests that intensive behavioural approaches, when started at an early age, can significantly improve the outcomes for children with autism,” she says.
Originally developed by researchers at Flinders University, the Inclusive Directions Flinders Early Intervention Program provides a comprehensive 20-week course that specifically targets early skills known to be important in the development of social and communication abilities, such as eye contact, play and imitation.
The program uses the Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) practice, which, put simply, is a child-centred way to develop support plans for those with behaviours of concern.
Some of the ways PBS can assist include:
- helping children to understand daily life using clearer ways of communicating such as a picture schedule;
- changing the environment by reducing high noise levels;
- improving lifestyle by involving the child in more interesting and enjoyable activities that keep them involved and connected with their community, such as Inclusive Directions’ Saturday Social Club; and
- changing the environment to involve the child in meaningful and positive relationships with others.
Learning should be fun
Jocelyn says a critical aspect of early intervention is the development of social skills.
“Fun is just one of the reasons why Inclusive Directions originally developed our popular Saturday Social Club, which is now available locally,” she said.
“While Saturday Social Club focuses on developing social skills, we know that these are best learned alongside other children and qualified staff in a safe and fun learning environment.”
Jocelyn says that each session is themed and designed to encourage and enable children to work together, seek peer support and interaction, and learn how to make positive friendships.
“Learning with other children also reduces the risk of social isolation and showcases early childhood and school environments as a happy and exciting place to be,” she says.
Inclusive Directions Flinders Therapy House launched in Mt Gambier in February 2016. The House is located at 71 Suttontown Road and inquiries about Saturday Social Club, Flinders Early Intervention Program and Positive Behaviour Support are warmly welcomed:
Phone 8725 0211