Early learning programs for children with autism

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  Published on Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Early learning programs for children with autism

Library Home  >  Diversity and Inclusion
  Published on Wednesday, 26 May 2021
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Autism affects one in 100 Australians, and although we don’t know what causes this neurodevelopmental condition, the benefits of early intervention are well established in helping children overcome its disabling aspects.

Autism-specific early intervention can make a real difference to young children’s development by providing the individualised support to develop a child’s skills and facilitate meaningful participation within the community.

AEIOU Foundation is a leading provider of early intervention programs for children with autism, and they’re about to open Canberra’s first purpose-built autism hub for under sixes.

Here, we speak with Enia Alberto, AEIOU Canberra Regional Manager, to see how AEIOU is supporting toddlers and preschoolers with autism, both in the nation’s capital and elsewhere in Australia.

For parents unfamiliar with AEIOU Foundation, could you please explain a little about what you do?

AEIOU Foundation provides evidence-based therapy and care to help children with autism reach goals, gain vital independence, and achieve their full potential. We operate centres across Queensland, South Australia – and by July 2021, we’ll also work from Canberra.

Our goal is simple: To help children with autism live their best lives. In addition to providing therapy and specialised early education for the children, we also support parents in the early years of their child’s autism diagnosis.

Although AEIOU Foundation is new to the Canberra region, we have supported thousands of young children to achieve their developmental goals since establishing in 2005.

AEIOU Foundation specialises in autism-specific early intervention programs for young children. Why is early intervention so important, and how can families get this support – and get help paying for it?

Research shows that early intervention makes a significant difference to a child’s development, leading to improved outcomes like increased social, communication and daily living skills.

AEIOU is a registered NDIS provider and we know that the initial steps after diagnosis can be complicated and sometimes overwhelming. So, we have family support coordinators within our team to help parents manage the journey right from the beginning.

For eligible families considering enrolling their child at AEIOU, we provide a combination of child care and therapy. This means that between the NDIS and Federal Government subsidies, there are options to help manage costs, but these are based on individual families’ circumstances.

Families should speak with our family support team, who help walk parents through funding options, and their details are available here.

What kinds of learning strategies and learning environments do children with autism benefit from?

Children with autism benefit most from individualised care – it is the most important thing we do at AEIOU – there is no ‘one size fits all’ learning approach for children with autism.

Strategies that work with one child may not work with another, so it’s critical to us that we spend time getting to know a child, their family, their strengths, struggles and goals, to develop the most beneficial learning approach.

When families visit AEIOU Canberra, it will appear like a well-designed child care centre. The environment will be rich and stimulating for children, but there is a supportive and strategic therapeutic environment hidden in plain sight, where specialists deliver early intervention programs disguised as play.

In an environment where children feel comfortable, we can provide the best support to help children with autism reach their potential, whatever that may be.

We understand that AEIOU Canberra is opening its doors in July 2021. What else can you tell us about this early learning autism centre?

I am enormously proud that AEIOU Canberra will be the region’s first dedicated early intervention centre for young children on the autism spectrum.

Our purpose-built service will provide families with access to a team comprised of speech, behaviour and occupational therapists, and early childhood educators, in the one location.

Children who attend our state-of-the-art centre will experience an environment just like any other child care centre or kindergarten, but they’ll also be supported by a highly qualified team who are trained to help kids with autism build the skills needed for their next educational setting.

Perhaps most importantly, Canberra families who have previously had to relocate to either Queensland or South Australia to access AEIOU’s services will now be able to stay close to family and friends, with the autism-specific support they need.

This is wonderful news for parents and children in the ACT. What advice do you have for all families who are transitioning their child with autism into child care?

When you first move your child from home-based care into a child care centre setting, it’s normal for any parent to feel anxious, and this concern can be felt even more by parents of children with complex needs. 

To ease this anxiety, we encourage families to visit a child care centre before their child starts.

At AEIOU, we spend a lot of time getting to know each child and their interests, and this ‘walk-through and talk-through’ is key for a child’s smooth transition to centre-based care.

In the lead-up to our Canberra centre opening, I would encourage all interested families to reach out to our team and organise a visit and assessment to ensure the work we do will help your child overcome the disabling aspects of autism.

Thank you for your insights, Enia – it’s great to hear about the positive effect that AEIOU Canberra will have.     

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 13 May 2021

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