Ten years ago this month, a support group for families of people with autism spectrum disorders held its first meeting in Cessnock.
Since then, Strive for Autism has helped to provide support for such families, and raise much-needed awareness of the lifelong developmental condition that can affect communication, sensory perception, social interactions and behaviour.
Strive for Autism president Maxine Baird said the group’s meetings provide information and support, and a forum for families with questions and stories to share.
The group presents annual awards to participating schools to acknowledge the hard work and achievements of students with ASD and their teachers.
It also raises funds to support local schools, sporting groups and individuals.
“Thanks to the support of our community and the generosity of our sponsors we have been able to provide many resources over the last 10 years,” Mrs Baird said.
The donations have included iPads, computers and grants to help educate children on the autism spectrum.
Strive’s regular fundraising events include an annual shopping weekend bus trip to Sydney. This year’s was the eighth shopping trip, and raised $4050.
Strive has won two Australia Day awards for Community Event of the Year – the first for its Sounds of the Spectrum concert in 2010.
The concert was held at Cessnock Performing Arts Centre to a sold-out crowd of over 460 people.
Mrs Baird said it was an unforgettable event.
“We raised over $20,000 and gave our community an insight to autism,” she said.
“It is important that we create awareness as it’s not always an easy road for people on the spectrum.”
The seminar featured renowned speakers Dr Lee Sturgeon, Rachel Lee Harris and Jeanette Purkis.
“Their great expertise and understanding has helped to improve the awareness and support for families and individuals living with autism in our local community,” Mrs Baird said.
Dr Sturgeon, a clinical psychologist, is now an ambassador for Strive.
He said support groups such as Strive are essential in mobilising families to support other families with members with autism spectrum disorders.
“One aspect of current best practice for families with children with an ASD is to engage themselves with local community services and supports,” Dr Sturgeon said.
“Strive greatly assists families to meet this goal in the Lower Hunter region.
“I have been involved with Strive now for ten years and congratulate them on their accomplishments to date and wish them every success in their future ASD-related endeavours.”
Strive for Autism’s 10th anniversary dinner will be held at Cessnock Golf Club on Tuesday, November 14 at 6.30pm. The guest speakers will be Tim and Judy Sharp.
The cost for the dinner is $35 per person. RSVP is required by November 6. Contact Maxine on 0419 913 033 for more information.
Find out more at www.striveforautism.com.au.