Creating autism communities

Paper cut outs of people holding hands in a circle

Canberra mum creates new autism communities

Canberra mum of three, Karen Hedley, has one child on the spectrum, Ryan. Now nine, he was diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder when he was six years old.

“I first did a Positive Partnerships course just before Ryan was diagnosed. However, now having done the parent/carer workshop for a second time, I think I’ve taken a lot more from it. The readings on social skills are very useful, as well as those about teacher’s assistants and their relative benefit. This year I had the chance to attend a session on homework skills, including strategies to help Ryan complete homework more efficiently and how to present homework to him, so it’s easier for him to comprehend.

“We’re lucky to have a good relationship with Ryan’s school. Last year he was having a lot of trouble completing work, so his teacher developed a very effective rewards system. When he completed a task, he was able to play with cardboard boxes, using them as building blocks to create lego-like figures. Soon, other children wanted to join in after they had completed their tasks, to the point where all the students were allowed to construct and paint the figures as a reward for completing school work, which were displayed in common areas at the school. In fact, the models were so popular that the school raffled them off. This was one of my proudest moments.”

Karen has been working in the disability sector for over 10 years and has found that the biggest problem most parents face is not knowing where to find the right information.

“I found that Autism Asperger ACT was a good resource for our family. They offer workshops for parents and school age children with autism which allow the children to play a range of games – building games, action games like statues and board games – in a controlled environment.

“However, other than Positive Partnerships, some of the best resources and networks I found were online. I receive the e-news from Autism Asperger ACT and am also a member of online community CASPAR.

“I’ve now gone onto create my own online networks including a private Facebook group called Canberra ASD Friends, which we open to anyone with a family member on the spectrum and share our experiences and support strategies. I also launched a blog – ACTdisabiliy.blogspot.com – where I share information about autism and strategies for parents to try.

“For parents whose children have just received a diagnosis, I would recommend Positive Partnerships and their online portal as a first point of call for very helpful, evidence-based information.”