Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) was established in response to the inability of existing educational and treatment facilities to either accept the disorder or address the specific needs of children and adults with autism and their families. Since its inception in 1966, the organisation has developed and provided desperately needed services and programs for many thousands of children, adolescents and young adults with autism.
Download history of Aspect - major highlights
Established in 1966 by a small group of parents and their supporters who wanted an education and support for their children with autism, we were then known as the Autistic Children's Association of NSW. We were incorporated as a company in 1969.
The Association began because the needs of people with autism were not being met. This motivated parents of children with autism to get together and do something. Our first services were educational - a class of 6 children in a rented hall. The parents had the support of a small number of professionals in paediatrics, child psychology, psychiatry and education who were diagnosing autism and trying some of the new behavioural and specialist educational approaches appearing in the early research literature.
Autism was seen as a mental health issue. Segregation was seen as a way forward (to maintain 1:4 teacher- student ratios). The educational philosophy was behaviourist.
We received our first government funding in 1969.
During the 1970s the Association expanded, and more schools were opened. The Forestville School opened in 1971, Annandale in 1974, Newcastle in 1977 and Kingsgrove and Randwick in 1978.
A fundraising department was established, and it was a time of growth in service and the outgrowing and renewing management structures.
Funding for the residential accommodation and the Adult Facilitation Centre and for the workshop named RQ Industries was provided under the Handicapped Persons Act (passed in 1970).
The Association expanded to include services for adults in 1982 with the establishment of two houses and an independent Training Centre. The name was changed to Autistic Association of NSW in November 1984.
More schools were opened - Terrigal in 1983, Wetherill Park in 1984 and Illawarra in 1986.
Other services also began: staff training in 1988, as well as adult vocational services to school leavers.
The Disability Services Act replaced the Handicapped Persons Act.
New services were begun - Parent Support Groups, our first Satellite Classes in mainstream schools, Metropolitan Outreach and a Research Institute.
Changes and developments were made to existing services: advocacy support increased, restructuring of school counsellor roles, and the move of the Peakhurst school. Satellite classes and early intervention services were expanding.
Community Services Complaints Legislation was introduced.
Into the New Millenium
On 6 April 2005, at a Special General Meeting of the Autism Association of NSW, Members approved a new Constitution and a change in name to Autism Spectrum Australia (or Aspect for short). The new name is very inclusive, acknowledging that autism is on a spectrum and that there is a range of diagnoses that make up the autism spectrum including autistic disorder, Asperger's disorder and atypical autism.
Today, Aspect is the leading service provider for Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger's Syndrome and treatment, and provides:
- Direct services for children in the form of early intervention and schooling, incorporating six specialty schools, over 50 satellite classes, education and family support, assessment and transition and itinerant education support;
- Direct services for adults in the form of employment, training and accommodation;
- Advice and assistance for those many families who are either receiving inadequate or inappropriate services, or for whom there are no services at all;
- A central resource for families and services seeking information and advice about autism spectrum disorders, including Asperger's syndrome in NSW.
The organisation employs highly skilled professionals who are experts in the field of autism. Our professionals - clinical psychologists, specialist teachers, speech pathologists, and adult services staff - provide programs which emphasise the development of communication skills, social skills and independent living skills. The overall objective is integration into mainstream education, which in turn overcomes a major barrier to community living for people with autism.
Aspect's programs have resulted in the:
- Integration and maintainance of children with autism into mainstream schools;
- Relocation of adults with autism from institutions into community based group homes;
- Sourcing, placement and provision of employment opportunities for adults with autism, and
- Regular training courses and special events in the Sydney Metro area as well as regional New South Wales.