School and community counts for Mum of two boys on the spectrum

Two young brothers smiling in bed

Supportive networks empowered by unique workshop in remote location

Having two boys with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and being a secondary school teacher, Alice Teasdale had already started down her path towards finding the right strategies and a supportive network for her children when she attended our workshop on Kangaroo Island for parents and carers which included schools and community supporters. What she found however, was that the workshop helped her with ways to communicate her children’s needs better with school staff, other parents and other professionals.

“There has already been change, especially within the school,” Alice said. “At the high-school, a working group was formed to discuss accommodations needed in the senior years. People have been connecting to network and discuss resources, including beyond the school amongst parents and other service providers.”

According to Alice, the change started slowly while people processed and talked through what they had learnt, but since “snowballed into a much bigger conversation.”

“The workshop has given staff a new frame of reference for everyone communicating together. It has provided a common language between families, school and the community,” she continued.

On the importance of strong community networks, Alice said “the workshop was useful to build upon relationships. We already had established networks, but the group has expanded and the network has expanded and become stronger. The workshop allowed us to offer support to people not already in the network.”

One resource that has been particularly useful to the school is the planning matrix.

“Using the matrix has empowered people” Alice commented. “The matrix provided a way to communicate to schools. By using the matrix you can really describe children in a way people can understand, and in a structure that people can understand. It can also help with strategies.”

“Autism is so different for each child and the matrix helps to outline the specific needs of each child.”

On a personal note, Alice explained that the part of the workshop that was most useful for her was the information on sensory issues.

“It wasn’t new information, but it was good to look at it in a different context, other than talking to an occupational therapist. The session allowed me to identify behaviours related to sensory needs.”

Although Alice reported continued struggles, she said she knows “it is all part of building better outcomes” for her sons and other children in the community.

As a result of the expanded network, Alice’s community is now aiming to start up programs and activities for students with ASD.

“As parents we want to organise after school sport groups where the activities are OT based, but allow for social opportunities. We are still talking about the group and looking at models,” Alice concluded.