Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) face many challenges throughout their life. Many day to day tasks that other children take for granted are overwhelming and considerably more difficult for children with ASD due to the different ways they process sensory information, social interactions and make sense of the world. These difficulties can impact on every aspect of their life and their development.
Kids Are Kids! is a not for profit therapy provider that has been supporting children with disabilities and developmental needs, including ASD, for 21 years. Kids Are Kids! has developed a new program to support children with ASD and their families to have more skills and opportunities to address the factors that impact on nutrition, fitness, general health and wellbeing. The new group program, called ActiveAte, was launched in February 2019 and is the first of its kind in Australia.
The ActiveAte program aims to make physical activity and exercise fun, which is especially relevant when so many children with ASD prefer sedentary activities such as screen based games. It also addresses issues around eating and nutrition that are significant for so many children with ASD due to their sensory processing difficulties. Karen, a mother currently completing the ActiveAte program with her child, reports “In the past I just accepted that my son didn’t like a new food. Now I am allowing him to have more exposure to the food which is helping him to feel more comfortable to try.” Another mother in the group explains “I am constantly reflecting on what I have learnt in the group. My son fed himself dinner independently for the first time which is a huge deal for our family, as normally I need to feed him.“ Sarah Browning, Occupational Therapist and ActiveAte program coordinator, is thrilled to see how positively children are responding to the program. “We are really enjoying hearing the families share their success stories each week and creating a space where families can support and learn from each other.”
The program is heavily subsidised for families due to a grant Kids Are Kids! received from the Helen Leech Endowment Trust through Perpetual Trustees IMPACT Program which will make it accessible to more families. Families can also use NDIS or other individualised funding. “Kids Are Kids! works hard to make sure all of our services are accessible to all families regardless of economic circumstances, and we are very excited that the ActiveAte program will be affordable and meet the needs of so many families” said Executive Officer, Teresa Barrie.