Introduction

Welcome to PlayConnect!

PlayConnect is a program that incorporates supported playgroups from across Australia! Since its inception in 2008, under the Helping Children with Autism (HCWA) initiative, PlayConnect has supported over 3,100 families. It has provided a free service to children aged 0-6 with either a formal Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis, or who display ASD-like characteristics, and their families.

Whether running an existing group, starting a new group, or filling in to help out it is hoped that this Toolkit will provide some valuable information about the PlayConnect program and the children we work with and who present with ASD or ASD- like characteristics. The Toolkit will begin with some background about PlayConnect. It will identify the nature and purpose of this document and will provide a brief introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The PlayConnect story so far:

  • PlayConnect was established in 2008 to assist families with young children diagnosed with ASD or presenting ASD-like
  • The program provides parents and families with a facilitated support network network to share experiences and foster a sense of belonging, as well as tailored sensory play opportunities for children with ASD.
  • PlayConnect is delivered, free across 141 sites nationally, with 3,100 families supported over the past six years

The program provides a ‘soft entry’ point to access information and support on the ASD journey and offers a pathway to engagement with specialist early intervention services for young children.

ASD Facts and Figures

  • It is estimated that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) affects 1% of Australian children. In 2012, 9,000 Australian children (0-9yrs) had a confirmed ASD diagnosis (ABS data2012).
    • The average age of diagnosis in children is typically 4 years
    • Eighty percent of ASD cases occur in males
    • Fifty percent of children diagnosed with ASD also suffer from another disability (e.g.anxiety).
    • There is no cure for ASD but early intervention is showing encouraging results.

The impact of ASD on families

  • Raising a child on the autism spectrum adds significant stress to family relationships within and outside the home
  • Family members of those with ASD are at increased risk of social, physical and mental health difficulties including, increased rates of depression and anxiety
  • The heritability of ASD puts siblings at increased risk of developing the condition, with parents often receiving a diagnosis themselves after their child