Mile­stone mo­ments for chil­dren with autism

Monthly Chronicle - - Health & Well-being -

A play date, bush­walk­ing ad­ven­ture, or speak­ing up in class: th­ese are proud mo­ments for any par­ents. But for the par­ents of stu­dents at The Lab Hornsby, th­ese are the mile­stone mo­ments: the sto­ries they share with friends, cap­ture pho­tos of and re­sult in tears – happy tears. Th­ese chil­dren have high-func­tion­ing autism or Asperger’s syn­drome and their par­ents rel­ish in see­ing them achieve things they never thought pos­si­ble.

For one mum, watch­ing her daugh­ter stand up and lead her class in danc­ing was over­whelm­ing. Bella* had never spo­ken to an­other per­son at The Lab but, when a new video game was pro­jected onto the screen, she got up and started mov­ing to the mu­sic. Her mum in­stantly broke into tears. This is one of many mile­stone mo­ments tak­ing place at The Lab.

“We knew it could of­fer a great so­cial­i­sa­tion op­por­tu­nity for a range of young peo­ple who, through no fault of their own, be­come very so­cially iso­lated. The Lab of­fers young peo­ple with Asperger’s or high func­tion­ing autism, who have a strong in­ter­est in com­put­ing, the op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether in a friendly and ap­pro­pri­ately sup­ported group: to have fun, make friends, and learn new things. We watch so many of them grow in con­fi­dence, de­vel­op­ing great friend­ships, and grow­ing sig­nif­i­cantly in their com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills,” Mark said.

“Th­ese young peo­ple can have dif­fi­cul­ties at school, mak­ing friends and gen­er­ally not fit­ting into the main­stream. Most are not in­ter­ested in week­end sport at all and would pre­fer to play games on their com­puter ev­ery wak­ing hour. It’s amaz­ing to see, af­ter one ses­sion at The Lab, the vast ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple can’t wait to come back the next week. Par­ents tell us that Satur­day is the one morn­ing of the week that their kids jump out of bed early and can’t wait to get to The Lab ses­sion.”

“The Lab Hornsby has now been op­er­at­ing for five and a half years. It’s hard to be­lieve, but it’s still as ex­cit­ing to me as the day we com­menced, watch­ing the par­tic­i­pants de­velop skills that are so eas­ily taken for granted.”

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