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Aspect opens first autism-specific class for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students on the autism spectrum

31 May 2021

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In an Australian first, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), Australia’s leading national autism provider with one of the largest autism-specific school programs in the world, has opened a new ‘satellite’ class at Briar Road Public School specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students on the autism spectrum.

A ‘satellite’ class is an autism-specific class operated by an Aspect, but located in a host, mainstream school, in this case Briar Road Public School in Airds.

The Principal of the school, Tammy Anderson, a Biripi woman who has grown up with her family on Dharawal country in Airds, NSW, said the new class recognises the importance of culturally appropriate supports and education for students on the autism spectrum.

“The collaboration with Briar Road Public School and Aspect Macarthur School creates an opportunity to provide autism-specific educational support for Aboriginal students in the area,” said Ms Anderson.

“I strongly believe that supportive education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is possible through developing strong school culture with autism-specific support that caters to each child’s needs. We are delighted to be hosting the Aspect satellite class.” Overtime, it is hoped that the class will grow in numbers and continue to focus on providing quality autism specific education that also respects and embeds culturally appropriate and reflective teaching and learning specifically for Aboriginal students.”

Aspect Director of Education Maryanne Gosling said, “Too often students on the autism spectrum are placed in mainstream schools without the appropriate supports, when they are not ready to meet the many challenges a mainstream school environment poses.

“Moving into a dedicated space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students enables a connection to culture while also providing important autism-specific support. We are starting small but have big hopes and dreams for all that is possible moving forward into the future.

“Aspect brings over 50 years of experience in providing specialist education to students on the spectrum through its unique approach known as the Aspect Comprehensive Approach.

“This new satellite class addresses a real need for autism-specific learning for Aboriginal students in the Macarthur community.”

Facts about autism

  • Around one in 70 Australians are on the autism spectrum
  • Autism is a lifelong developmental condition characterised by difficulties in social interaction, communication, restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours, and sensory sensitivities.
  • Children from all backgrounds, countries and levels of society can be diagnosed on the autism spectrum.
  • Current data shows that autism is under-diagnosed among Indigenous communities. In many areas, autism is unheard of. Other challenges include lack of access to local services or diagnostic assessment tools, an absence of trusted relationships, or the fear of shame and blame.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Hayley Robbins, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)

T: (02) 8977 8114 | M: 0466 491 537 | E: hrobbins@autismspectrum.org.au

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