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Aspect believes that it is important to work in partnership Autistic people throughout our organisation, in governance, research, service planning and service delivery. This is the right thing to do and it will make our organisation and work more respectful and effective. The following is a summary of what Aspect is doing to work in partnership to ensure that this continually improves.

Working in partnership is part of Aspect’s approach to Diversity and Inclusion

To support Aspect’s strategic goal of working in partnership, Aspect has employed a Working in Partnership Senior Officer to develop and implement a Working in Partnership Charter that outlines the overarching principles for working in partnership with autistic people to develop supports, services and messaging that is respectful and relevant for Autistic people. The Working in Partnership Officer also supports business units to adopt a partnership approach. A copy of the Charter can be found here.

Employing people on the spectrum

The Aspect People team is working with people on the spectrum to adapt recruitment processes, developing approaches to measure employment data and working with the organisation’s employment service, Aspect Capable to ensure appropriate and successful workplace supports. Aspect has a target of reaching 6% of its staff as identifying as Autistic, across a variety of roles and at all levels.

A partnership approach to Governance: Aspect’s Board & the Advisory Council

The Aspect Advisory Council was established in 2017 and consists of a group of seven Autistic people who provide independent advice to the Board of Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) and Aspect’s Executive team on Aspect’s governance.

The Council influences Aspect’s strategic planning and the management of the company’s corporate risks.

The Council was based on a model developed by Dimensions, a disability organisation in the UK. The model seeks to facilitate meaningful representation by including a diverse group of people with a range of experiences and perspectives in the governance structure of an organisation.

The group was recruited through existing Aspect networks across Australia and first met in August 2017. The Council has input into Aspect’s strategy e.g. representation at the annual Board/Executive Strategy Workshop and the Strategic Planning Workshop of the Aspect staff leadership group.

The Council has formally agreed its role and this is summarised in Regulation 9 of the Aspect Regulations, which is available on the Aspect website. Information about the Advisory Council operations is shared in the Annual Report and at the Annual General Meeting.

In December 2020, Aspect’s Board welcomed its first Autistic member Tori Haar, a founding member of Aspect’s Advisory Council.

Participatory Research and Coproduction with Autistic people as partners

Aspect Research Centre for Autism Practice (ARCAP) recognises the importance of a participatory approach to research. Our research focus is not on finding a cure for autism, or on finding the causes of autism. Our focus is on providing the best possible supports, services and programs for autistic people here and now; the best practice, based on evidence from around the world, to provide the best possible opportunities for the people we support. ARCAP employs Autistic Research Assistants and internal research proposals are reviewed by Autistic reviewers. ARCAP also consults with Autistic staff and working groups to ensure input at all stages of the research lifecycle.

ARCAP’s Research Priorities project has investigated what autistic adolescents and adults, as well as their families view as being a priority in living a good life. The priorities outlined by our autistic participants and their families will set ARCAP’s research agenda into the future.

Aspect is an official Autism CRC Research Co-production Partner. Partners are organisations who have demonstrated a commitment to research co-production on a sustained basis. Co-production partners have demonstrated:

  • Commitment to co-production: through completed, continuing and research yet to commence
  • Appropriate engagement and recognition: co-producers on the spectrum and/or their families/carers have been, and will continue to be, engaged, recognised and rewarded appropriately
  • Sustainability of co-production: the organisation takes a sustained approach to research co-production, including promotion of co-production internal or external to their organisation

Aspect has also been at the forefront of researching the everyday life experiences and needs of people on the autism spectrum, with studies such as the We Belong and We Belong Too. In undertaking these projects, Aspect included Autistic adults in the project team that conceptualised and designed each research project.

In a unique collaboration between Aspect researchers and adults on the autism spectrum, the results of the We Belong study have been published in the book Shining a Light on the Autism Spectrum: Experiences and Aspirations of Adults. This book illustrates the original data with personal stories and case studies written by adults on the autism spectrum to present their experiences, aspirations and needs in their own words

Working in partnership with Autistic people in service planning and delivery

Aspect Inclusion

In 2019 Aspect employed an Inclusion Officer to coordinate plans that ensure continuous improvement of engagement. Aspect consulted with the Australian Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) to develop and implement an organisation Disability Access & Inclusion Plan. The Disability Access & Inclusion Plan will ensure Aspect’s work is in line with the six outcomes of the National Disability Strategy 2010 – 2020 a national approach to supporting people with disability to maximise their potential and participate as equal citizens in Australian society.

Aspect has established a LGBTQIA+ Committee comprising of people on the spectrum to identify gaps in services, to promote inclusion and learn about the specific needs of people on the spectrum who identify as LGBTQIA+. This led to Aspect coordinating a group of people on the spectrum to be participants in the 2019 Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras.

Aspect Education

Every Aspect student has a strengths-based Individual Plan that shapes their education. Students contribute to their plan as much as they are able. For example, one high school student expressed an interest and capability in the school library. This student now comes to the school library one morning per week. She has made suggestions around a new more efficient system that could be used and is developing skills for future employment.

Aspect has developed Student Representative Councils to encourage student voice in the running of schools.

Increasingly our ex-students are engaged in varied roles such as contributing to parent teacher evenings or other school events with families (speaking or taking photographs), delivering a music program or presenting at education conferences.

As Aspect established the Treetop School an advisory group was established with an autistic parent and an Autistic community member.

Aspect’s NDIS services

Some Aspect services are inspired and led by participants, including setting up social networks based on shared passions like Pokémon.

Aspect Practice Think Tank

Aspect engages a group of Autistic people as paid consultants, to advise on our day to day practice. This group is called the Aspect Practice Think Tank. The group meets four or five times each year and reviews, content, service resources, research proposals, communication materials, language guidelines and our plain English policies.

Autism Friendly Australia

Aspect’s Autism Friendly team work in partnership in all consultations with organisations such as Taronga Zoo, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Opera Australia, Shoes & Sox, Gold Coast Airport and Australian Museum. Our NDIS funded Inclusive Beaches program employed two Autistic Inclusion Advisors to help assess, train and monitor the autism friendliness of Surf Life Saving Nippers programs. Aspect has also signed up to the Hidden Disability Sunflower Scheme. Wearing the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower discreetly indicates to people around the wearer including staff, colleagues and health professionals that they need additional support, help or a little more time.

Aspect Employment

Aspect Employment is a specialist employment service offering person-centred employment training and support to jobseekers on the spectrum and their employers through coaching, mentoring, job preparation, and training.

Fundraising

Aspect Fundraising is continually working towards respectful representation of people in fundraising campaigns. Aspect Fundraising collaborates with an Autistic working group to develop respectful accurate messaging and encourages autistic people to engage with fundraising activities.

Aspect Comprehensive Approach

Aspect uses a comprehensive organisation-wide approach to support. Aspect's Comprehensive Approach encapsulates more than 50 years of Aspect's expertise in providing services to Autistic people across the lifespan. Based on the continuous review of the evidence-based literature, the ACA currently includes eight elements. Throughout the development of the ACA, Autistic people have contributed by providing written and video examples of lived-experience of each of the eight elements. There has also been Autistic input into the review and continual improvement process.

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