Autism Spectrum Australia

Joel's Story

Thanks to the incredible kindness of our supporters, we are able to be there for children like Joel and give them that extra support throughout their education, whether they are at an Aspect school or have transitioned to a mainstream school. Our specialist education program is all about seeing the positive in children on the autism spectrum, and uncovering their potential that lies within.

By the age of three, most children have developed around 300 words – Joel was speaking just two. His mother, Jane, was desperately worried about him and didn’t know how he was ever going to be able to get through school.

He was anxious and uncomfortable around new people, wasn’t responding to storybooks Jane read him and his communication had hit a brick wall. Doctors eventually confirmed that Joel was on the autism spectrum.  But Jane didn’t know anything about autism, or what it would mean for Joel’s future. And with kindergarten on the horizon, she felt more and more concerned.

After making several phone calls to find the best support for her son, Jane got in touch with Aspect.

“I spoke to a lovely man by the name of Mark,” Jane says. “For the first time I could remember, I felt positive about the future. Mark said, ‘what you’re looking for is us. At Aspect schools, we teach children visually. It sounds like Joel will respond best to that approach. He will fit in perfectly here.’”

With your kind support, we run eight autism-specific schools, with our ninth just opened up this term. Our schools provide children like Joel with the specialist, individual support they need to flourish. 

The aim of our schools is to prepare children on the spectrum for the transition into mainstream schools – which is just what Joel did, earlier this year.

Joel used to find it very difficult to communicate verbally and interact with other people, but was very responsive when he was shown a picture.  Like many children on the autism spectrum, Joel was a visual learner and he needed that extra support that an Aspect school could provide, before he was ready to attend a mainstream school.

Joel started at an Aspect school at the age of five, and he has never looked back. “He loved going to school from day one. As he’s a very visual learner, the staff used signs and pictures to develop his communication and understanding. They also broke up the school day into short sessions, making sure that he didn’t get too tired or distracted.”

After finishing primary school, some children with higher learning needs might stay in an Aspect school, but our main aim is to help them transition to a mainstream school. And when they make that transition, our Education Outreach support ensures that their new teachers are equipped with the most supportive methods to teach them, their peers understand about autism, their parents and teachers work closely to develop learning plans, and the child on the spectrum is given social skills support.

You could ensure that our specialist support doesn’t end, even when a child on the spectrum starts at a mainstream school. Thanks to you, they could always have us at their side – willing them on, cultivating their talents, helping them adjust to a new environment and thrive there. 

Now twelve years old, Joel recently joined a mainstream high school. Jane says he’s settling in really well, which just shows you how much progress he has made.

“Joel is much more sociable now. He’s happy to join in games with other kids, and he wouldn’t do that before starting at his Aspect school. Every single year there, he developed more and more. He’s now on a par with a child who isn’t on the spectrum, and that wouldn’t have happened without Aspect.

“He learnt how to be independent, and how to cope when things get a bit much. Before, Joel used to become overwhelmed and get upset, but now he’s very good at giving himself “time out”. This really helped him when he was making the move to mainstream school.

“Another big thing is Joel’s confidence. His Aspect teachers knew how to motivate and empower him. His comprehension and English have improved beyond belief. He used to be very anxious, but now he will chat to anyone. When he was three, he couldn’t speak more than two words – but now you can’t stop him talking!”

This is the incredible impact your support could have on a child on the spectrum. You can give them the opportunity to find their potential and live a happy, fulfilling life - confident enough to take on any change or any challenges they may come across.

Thank you for helping them on their important journey.


Joel's Story