Provide families with appropriate information

Provide families with appropriate information regarding  other early intervention services, relevant family support services and agencies within their local community.

Another key role of a PlayConnect Facilitator is to provide families with appropriate information and support about services available for children and families with ASD or ASD-like traits. This role involves two key elements; first, understanding the breadth and scope of available services; and second communicating this information.

What Information to Provide?

In some STO’s, the state PlayConnect Coordinator will have a working list of locally available resources. Become familiar with this list. If this type of information is not available. you will need to compile it independently. Support services will fall into one of three categories: national; state or local. The following list breaks these down further.

  • National services: NDIS; Centrelink; Medicare; advocacy groups and associations; family support groups. We have included some additional information pertaining to national support services
  • State/Territory services: health services; early intervention teams; referral and diagnosis services; advocacy groups and associations; family support groups
  • Local services:Early intervention programs; therapy providers; respite services; advocacy groups and associations; family support groups

How to Provide Information?

The PlayConnect Facilitator, once familiar with the available supports, should then effectively and appropriately communicate the information to families within their group ensuring that they do so in a manner that is respectful and situation appropriate. However, it is important to remember that all families are different. Some will actively seek the information they need about programs and services for their child and their family. For many reasons, others might not be aware of the range of resources available to them. Some will need direct assistance to access resources and support services, even after they have been provided with information by the PlayConnect Facilitator.

Some key strategies may include:

  • Create a welcome pack for all new participants
  • Disseminating applicable written information from providers. This may be part of a discussion within the group, or in response to specific issues raised by group
  • Inviting relevant services to visit the group to explain the services they offer relevant to children with ASD. This may include ASD friendly services (a local dentist, hairdresser), ASD-friendly therapy providers and other relevant service provider as indicated by group participants.
  • Provide contact details forsupport services in the area
  • If the group has a newsletter or social media profile include information and the contact details for local ASD service providers for future access and reference by families

ASD can be a sensitive topic. The way in which information is presented is important. Many families of childrenwith ASD or ASD-like traits face a daily struggle both to support their children and to manage their expectations for the future. As discussed previously, ASD can be very stressful, isolating and anxiety provoking. Be mindful, sensitive adresponsive.

As well as the way information is presented, the when and the why are considerations there are issues that may engage sensitivities. Not all information will be relevant to all families, and the type of information they need, at any particular time, will depend on where they are on their diagnostic journey.

Below is a table that outlines the type of information that may be appropriate at various stages.

Developmental StageRelevant Supports
Child displaying signs (not yet diagnosed)
  • General information aboutASD
  • Information about state diagnostic procedures
  • List of clinicians that specialise in diagnosingASD
Newly diagnosed child / Early Childhood Years with diagnosis
  • General information aboutASD
  • Local Early InterventionServices
  • Local allied health professionals specializing in ASD (psychologists,occupationaltherapists,physiotherapists)
  • Support groups for parents
  • Centrelink
  • Developing school readiness skills
  • Respite Services
Transition to school
  • Procedures for accessing support at school
  • Developing school readiness skills (Local schools that specifically cater for children with ASD: mainstream or special education)
  • Allied health professionalswho support transition to school
  • Parents who have children with ASD at school
  • Representative from Education Department
  • Respite Services

PlayConnect Playgroup sessions provide opportunities for the Facilitator to informally provide families with written information and resources relevant to particular needs.

Parents and carers who do not read English, may needinformationexplainedortranslatedforthem. Other playgroup members or Program personnel may be able to assist with interpreting.Similarly, other community members and professionals may be able to offer suggestions and advice about ways of presenting the information that takes into account any relevant cultural issues or concerns. For example, cultural beliefs regarding disabilities that may affect how parents perceive ASD and whether they are likely to independently follow through with accessing the services available to them and their child, or are likely to need support and assistance to do so.

Inviting local ASD service providers to visit the PlayConnect Playgroup to provide information to families is one way of ensuring that the information offered is relevant, accurate and current. This also creates an opportunity for families to ask any questions that they may have and to find out about service referral and access processes. In addition, some parents and carers may be more likely to follow through with accessing the service provider if they are already familiar with the contact person or organisation.

It may also be useful to consider putting together an ASD resource file, inclusive of information about local services. This may help with immediate and current advice for new families.

Promote Community and Professional Awareness

Expanding community and professional awareness about the PlayConnect playgroup allows the program to reach more families and draws new members to groups. This encourages an evolving and robust group membership, which in turn further supports existing group members.

Promoting PlayConnect at relevant community events, events specifically targeted at families with ASD or other disabilities, or community- wide fetes or events can be a very effective way of disseminating information. This also involves encouraging families that attend the group to ‘spread the word’ within their personal networks.

Building professional awareness refers to networking with other relevant local service providers. The role of Facilitators in building these professional networks will vary from state to state, however, all Facilitators are expected to promote the program within these networks. This may include inviting services to the playgroup, providing services with information about the program on a regular basis, sending a Professional Expression of Interest form (See the PlayConnect Forms and Administration guide) to local professional groups, or even simple, informal telephone and email exchanges.

Foster Positive Relationships with Local Service Providers and Partnering Organisations

Partnerships with community organisations and agencies are an important feature of the PlayConnect Playgroups Program. Facilitators are encouraged to foster positive working relationships with local service partners. These relationships are central in

  1. establishing new playgroups within a community
  2. promoting access to other early intervention programs for children with ASD, health and family support services,and
  3. facilitating successful transition outcomes for participating families

The scope of service providers and relevant local partners is broad, and may include: therapy providers, such as speech therapists and occupational therapists; other early intervention services; health and family support services; local disability or ASD advocacy groups; local education providers; and any other relevant group.

Benefits of Community Relationships

The partner organisation/s involved with PlayConnect Playgroups may have considerable expertise in working with children with ASD.

If the needs of the childrenor their families are particularly complex, then it is important that the child are able to access the services of these providers. Alternatively, professional advisors may be able to assist the group Facilitatorto more effectively manage the situation.

These relationships with service partners can have many positive outcomes. They can:

  • Create referral pathways to and from the PlayConnect Playgroup, as well as between organisations,ensuring families have access to relevant services, and contributing to the overall success of PlayConnect
  • Allow PlayConnect Facilitator to advocate for families and facilitate connections. Depending on the specific needs of the family, this may range from providing contact details, to calling a professional service on behalf of a family, to facilitating a meeting between the two parties.
  • Potentially provide professional advice, information, mentoring and support for the Facilitator
  • Promote the PlayConnect Playgroup within the community
  • Visit the PlayConnect Playgroup to provide relevant information, support and advice to families with children with ASD or ASD-like symptoms.
  • Provide material support to the playgroup, such as a venue or donations of equipment and resources

Tips for Maintaining Positive Relationships

Perhaps, most importantly, ensure that the partner agencies understand the aims and planned outcomes of the PlayConnect Playgroup from the outset, in particular, the transition objectives and plan for the group. It is also very important to be aware of other organisations and their goals, objectives and ‘agenda’, and how these may influence particular decisions.

Additional strategies to support these relationships might include:

  • Maintaining regular communication, ensuring the communication of positive information about the activities and progress of the playgroup.
  • Liaising with venue providers to ensure a safe environment for all staff, volunteers and playgroup
  • Establishing and maintaining networks with local ASD service providers and other community
  • Responding promptly to local enquiries from families and service providers to facilitate access to the PlayConnect
  • Maintaining confidentiality at all times even when playgroup families are also clients of the partner organisation
  • Documenting partnership agreements and establish a timeframe for jointly reviewing these arrangements periodically

Meet other organisational requirements

Meet other organisational requirements including: collecting and reporting on relevant data; maintaining records; participating in training and professional development activities; and adhering to relevant policies and procedures, including duty of care.

The last but not least element of a PlayConnect Facilitator’s role is meeting other organisational requirements. More specifically: collecting and reporting on relevant data; maintaining records; participating in training and professional development activities; and adhering to relevant policies and procedures, including duty of care.

Record keeping and data management

The establishment and maintenance of key record keeping and data management systems is essential to the management of the group.

Key data allows STOs and PA to gauge how playgroups are going, and to provide accurate data to the program funders and to meet insurance requirements.This is critical to ensure our ongoing capacity to support playgroup members and their children and families.

Templates of key forms can be found in the PlayConnect Forms and Administration guide within this toolkit. If further information is required refer to the PlayConnect State or Territory Coordinator (and let us know!).

The PlayConnect Facilitator may be required to maintain other data and undertake some other record keeping. This may include: timesheets; expense claim forms/records; and vehicle travel logs. Further information about specific record keeping requirements can be obtained from the respective PlayConnect Playgroups STO’s.

Training and Professional Development

PlayConnect Facilitators may be required to attend training or other forms of professional development. The nature of this training will vary from group to group, and state to state. Discuss with your PlayConnect Playgroups State or Territory Coordinator for more information.

Adhering to Relevant Policies and Procedures

The application of policies and procedures are important to the proper function for any organisation. They allow for consistent business practices, as well as establishing a pathway for risk management and accountability. The specific policies and procedures will vary from state to state, but are likely to include:

  • Code of conduct
  • Duty of Care guidelines
  • Sun Smart policy
  • Immunisation policy
  • Infection policy
  • Complaints management guidelines
  • Incident management and reporting procedure

Setting Boundaries

While the role of a PlayConnect Facilitator is wide and varied, it is important to remember that there is support. In addition to the resources within the Facilitators Toolkit, support is available both within the state/territory and national PlayConnect networks, as well as through the local professional networks. It’s important to remember that the Facilitator role is bounded. The Facilitator is not expected to do everything for everyone. At the risk of being repetitious, remember:

  • Facilitators are not expected toprovide 1:1 counselling/support.
  • Facilitators are not expected to make assessments regarding therapeutic requirements for individual children
  • Facilitation does not entail making recommendations regarding therapeutic intervention
  • Facilitation does not include the provisionof opinions about individual service providers
  • Facilitation does not extend to providing support outside working hours or giving families access to personal phone number or home address
  • Always maintain a clear professional boundaries with clients