World's biggest athletics carnival for students with autism
Sydney, Australia: On Tuesday 13 October 2015, almost 600 students with autism came together at Sydney Olympic Park with their friends, relatives, teachers and volunteers to take part in the world’s biggest athletics carnival for children with autism.
“Research shows that children with autism significantly benefit from participating in social activities. At the Aspect Athletics Carnival, we’re able to overlay the sport, the fun and the interaction with families and children from other schools to give the children an enjoyable and educational experience. It’s a great opportunity to practice communication and social skills,” said Dr Debra Costley, National Director of Aspect Practice, Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect).
Preparing for the day
Preparation is the key to success for students going to the Aspect Schools Sports Carnival each year. Aspect School staff, parents, carers and students spend months getting ready for the day. This involves spending time practising, walking and talking through what to expect, and guiding students in ways they may choose to respond and behave in particular situations.
Social interactions are often difficult for children with autism and, without preparation, large noisy events can be like the child's worst nightmare. The characteristics of autism - affecting communication, restricted and repetitive interests and sensory sensitivities - can make it challenging for students when they want to connect with others and take part in an event that other children take for granted.
About the athletics carnival
This was the 8th annual Aspect Athletics Carnival for children with autism.
The annual carnival is an initiative of the largest not-for-profit autism-service provider in Australia. Many deemed the notion impossible when the concept was first conceived eight years ago. Children on the autism spectrum often feel over-stimulated in such situations and can find change in routine extremely challenging to handle but the children with autism at the centre of the event were not to be underestimated.
The Aspect staff and families strongly believe in the value of bringing the students together in a spirit of fun and competition – while enjoying a sense of belonging to a broader autism community.
This year’s Aspect Carnival involved almost 600 students with autism from Aspect’s eight autism-specific Aspect schools - including 100 satellite classes across NSW, along with parents, carers, volunteers, teachers, school staff and supporters.
Participating schools from across NSW
Schools represented include those based in Sydney (Aspect South East Sydney School, Aspect Western Sydney School and Aspect Vern Barnett School in Forestville), and others from further afield (Aspect Central Coast School, Aspect Hunter School, Aspect Macarthur School and Aspect South Coast School). The public were warmly encouraged to come along to show their support for the children.
Australian autism facts
About one in 100 Australians is on the autism spectrum
Around eight of the children born in Australia every day will grow up with autism
As many as one in four Australian children with autism are not diagnosed in time to receive early intervention support
Information for media
Interviews with the following people are available:
• Adrian Ford, Aspect CEO
• Elizabeth Gadek, National Operations Director, Aspect Schools
• Dr Debra Costley, National Director, Aspect Practice
• Principal of a participating Aspect School
• Parent of an Aspect School student