The new Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) school in Coffs Harbour is having a positive impact on the local community, in particular the Daley family.
Local mum Laura Daley said accessing the service had been life changing for her and her family with two young boys on the spectrum.
“Since my son Spencer started at Aspect at the age of four he really is a changed little boy – by the end of the year he could sit and wait, he could take turns and is much happier, Ms Daley said.
“He is now in mainstream school in Grade 2 and is doing really well socially and has a really big group of friends. He has the tools and confidence in himself to know that he is a little different, but knows how to ask for help.
“This has meant that I could go back to work full time. I don’t have to be the driver of their therapy and can just go back into the role of being a mum – which has been a wonderful change.”
Ms Daley said she felt so fortunate and grateful that Aspect saw the need to develop the school in her hometown.
“Not just for my boys, but also their peers and little ones into the future. Unfortunately so many people on the spectrum don’t have positive schooling experiences. Whereas my boys love coming to school now because they really feel understood,” she said.
Ms Daley said initially she had tried to set up an Austim satellite class in an existing school locally but couldn’t find anywhere that had the space.
“So we worked with Aspect and eventually were able to open our own campus here in Coffs Harbour which has been amazing. At times it felt really unattainable, it has been a hard slog to get the school up and running – it took about five years to happen,” she said.
“We were so grateful to receive the grant from the ETC Community Support Fund – the kids who attend this new school have benefited from the state-of-the-art touch screen technology which is really engaging for individuals on the spectrum. (Building that level of engagement is a key element of therapy). To have that extra funding boost off ETC for the classroom fit-out was a wonderful gift for the kids now and the kids into the future.”
Ms Daley encouraged other parents to seek support so as not to become socially isolated.
“Having two children on the spectrum was my greatest fear, but seven years down the track I can now say it has been my biggest blessing. It hasn’t been easy, times have been really challenging, but I think that’s just parenthood in itself. It’s important to have a good support team around you. I really encourage people to ask for help. That was something I initially had difficulty doing,” she said.
“I wouldn’t change my situation, it’s changed the way I view the world and my beautiful boys. I think disability can be a real blessing and that diversity needs to be celebrated.”
You can find out more about Aspect by visiting www.autismspectrum.org.au
The ETC Community Support Fund is designed to help organisations reduce disadvantage, generate opportunity, increase support services and/or build capacity in the communities in which we operate. Since 2012 we have given back $1 million to local communities. Find out more about the ETC Community Support Fund by visiting https://www.etcltd.com.au/csf
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