Friends of Autism

We value willingness and commitment of our families to put in personal effort to enrich the lives of their children, themselves and those around them. We are helping families to help themselves.

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Q. Who are Friends of Autism?

Originally started by the Marlow family, who have three autistic boys, to assist families with information, training, visuals and toys.  Our services have grown enormously however our motto of “Helping families to help themselves” has not changed. 

FOA is a privately funded charity and relies on the generosity of others to continue its work.  We thank and appreciate all our supporters and ask that you support their businesses in return.

We offer a range of services including:

  • ASD panel FACHSIA funded programs
  • Behavioural, family and play based therapy
  • Play group (through Playgroup Australia)
  • Information and toy library
  • Support Groups
  • Counselling Services
  • Referral service and community access advice
  • Home therapy packs
  • Parent training
  • School age children’s social and support groups
  • Adult social / support groups (run by Autistic adults for Autistic adults)

Our services are for parents and carers as well as children and adults with Autism. We work with many other service providers to assist in as many areas as possible.

Q. How can I support FOA?top

There are a number of ways you can assist us in our work including:

  • Donations (tax deductible over $2) – this can be a one off or regular donation
  • Time – volunteer for administration services like answering the phone, cleaning toys, making visual resources, be on our fundraising committee or help with a particular event
  • Goods donation
  • Attending and supporting fundraising events, particularly our Gala Ball held every year
  • Ask a friend to become a regular donator – just $10 a month can make a huge difference
Q. What is the money used for?top

We use donations to provide services for families.  Our Board, CEO, Fundraising Committee, Accountant, Auditor and Business Coach are all volunteers which keep our administration costs to a minimum – these volunteer contributions are worth about $220,000 per year.

We do however have to pay for premises (we have two) as well as therapy and administration staff and general operating expenses.  Every dollar raised is put toward assisting families with Autism and stays in Western Australia.

As a registered charity we adhere to very strict guidelines on the use of funds by the Australian Taxation Office and Department of Commerce.  All donations over $2 are tax deductible and it would be impossible for us to keep operating without the wonderful and selfless contributions of our volunteers.

We have strategic plans, quality systems management as well as extensive policies and procedures to ensure we deliver a high quality service.

Q. Who are our staff, what do they do and how are they trained?top

Our staff are all qualified and experienced in their specific field of speciality and have been working in Autism for a number of years. Specialty areas include occupational therapy, speech therapy, teaching, and psychology. Our programs are based on "Best Practices" of the "Roberts Report" using authorised methods under the Helping Families With Autism Package. We have been lucky in having people trained in various parts of the world allowing us to draw on their expertise and knowledge. It is always good for your child to have a variety of therapies and Therapists to assist with them interacting with the work, gaining skills and dealing with change. We also work with Curtin University with Honours Student practical rotations and have our own training program for Students, Therapists and Parents.

Q. What can you do for my family?top

Research has shown that the stress on families with a child with Autism can be greater than with any other disability.  Firstly most people can’t see it and if they can’t see it they can’t identify with it so that inappropriate behaviours, the need for routine and perhaps not socialising like you are used to as well as many other factors put enormous strain on the whole family.  We can work with you in setting up coping and communication strategies, come into your home if you like and make suggestions for visual supports, behavioural plans as well as providing training in techniques and support individually and in a group situation.

We also have a counselling service available both in person and on line.

Q. Counselling Servicestop

We offer a comprehensive and confidential counselling service.  The service can be accessed by anyone – not just families affected by Autism.

This service is offered by Deanne Marlow who is the mother of three autistic children, has a Diploma in Professional Counselling (Marriage Counselling and Child Development), she also has a Bachelor of Commerce (Commercial Law) and is the CEO and founder of Friends of Autism.  Often just communicating with someone who really understands your circumstances (as they have walked in your shoes) can really help.

Counselling is offered for a variety of issues including but not limited to:

  • Parenting training and strategies
  • Marital issues
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Financial concerns
  • Specifics of caring for special needs children
  • Family counselling

This is a service which can be accessed by email, Skype, in person sessions including individual, couples and groups.

It is often difficult to access quality counselling when caring for a special needs child and this is why we offer counselling via Skype and email – whilst this is not ideal given the importance of body language and building personal rapport it can give some relief, reassurance and guidance during difficult times.

Privacy is of the utmost importance, however if there are any issues in which a threat to oneself or another person in any way are identified these will be reported to the relevant authorities. Please refer to our schedule of fees.

Q. What if I don't live in the metro area?top

We have a number of home therapy packs available which we can post Australia wide for an additional $10 postage charge (subject to change without notice) and can use Skype for training and counselling sessions – just ask us.

Q. How do I access general information on Autism? top

We have a number of ways you can access general information including:

  • Information library which has many books, DVD’s etc for information and training purposes – we are happy to recommend specific books to you.
  • Our website contains lots of information including a popular web-site links, Dee’s parent blog, information and resource areas.
  • At our premises at 3/77 Wanneroo Road, Tuart Hill we have an extensive toy library.
  • We have a referral network for specialists and other providers.
Q. What if I have any language or cultural issues?top

Please discuss these with us. We are more than happy to have a friend or interpreter with you at any sessions. If anything does not fit with your cultural needs we would love to learn about them and accommodate if we can – every family is different and we respect your opinion and choices and would like to work with these.

Q. ASD Panel / FACHSIA funded servicestop

The FAHCSIA Helping Children with Autism Package is predominately designed to get your child ready for school. The government authorises qualified providers who are able to provide services under this package. Friends of Autism is one of the providers authorised in Western Australia. We have a consortium of members who provide a variety of services.

Our programs have been designed by Teachers to target skills and behavioural strategies that can work at school as well as in the home.  We used training Autism Therapists to carry out the therapy.  We are very family based and take a holistic approach when looking at how we can assist your family.  Whilst this may not be what you are used to with other service providers we feel the family unit will ultimately determine the success of your child.  Therefore we like to take a look at everything that may be affecting your family as a result of having a child with Autism and will endeavour to assist wherever we can.

We also have specific occupational therapy and speech pathologist on our Consortium to assist with these specific services.

Q. Key Elements of our Interventions and Servicestop

Assessment and skill sets
You will be asked to rate your child in a number of areas using our standard assessment forms.  This will point us in the right direction of how we can help you and will then be re-done at least every 3 months so we can map progress and address any areas that are not working.  We are looking at the following:

  • ability to cope and understand various environments
  • ability to imitate others
  • ability to comprehend and use language
  • ability to play appropriately with toys
  • ability to socially interact with others
  • ability to stay on task and transition to another smoothly
  • ability to be as independent as possible
Q. Your Individual Programtop

From this assessment we will work with you on a program to suit you and your family.  This is going to be very individualised and this is where we will rely on you for direction but may include any or all of the following:

  • Occupational Therapy.
  • Speech Therapy.
  • One on one therapy using various researched methods to attend to any issues with the above areas either in the home or at our premises.
  • Group therapy using various research methods to attend to any issues with the above areas.
  • Behavioural interventions – looking at specific behavioural issues, analysing why the behaviours are occurring and working with your child and family using a documented plan.  Not all "autistic" behaviours should be seen as a bad thing.  We like to work with the Autism not against it.  Some behaviours can be very calming and be used as a reward, if it isn't hurting the child or anyone else we believe you need to pick your battles.  Don't get too caught up with "society norms" particularly in the home environment. If it works for your family and child then generally it's OK.
  • Family based interventions will include looking at the stresses the family is under and how we can assist with this, we provide information, resources, training, counselling, stress management techniques and support groups to assist in this area which can be in a group or individual environment including in your home.
Q. How We Do Thingstop

There is a lot of terminology used in Autism so we are going to try and avoid using these terms and look practically at how we work.  We will be searching and working with areas including:

  • What works for your child – what motivates them and makes them happy – using these things to get results, working with their strengths in order to motivate them to develop skills that may not be as strong – we are all good at different things – the same applies with Autism so we work with this
  • How they communicate best – working and encouraging communication one on one and in group environments, looking to generalise skills and expand their communication in a variety of ways and settings – we use play, craft, pictures, prompting and rewarding to motivate children to get involved, imitate behaviours and responses to stimulate their world
  • How they process information and take direction – what methods can you use to clarify meanings and expectations to your child that they will understand – this may include schedules, picture request books, sequenced instructions
  • How we can help the family use and take strategies into the home to vastly increase the effectiveness of methods used

All of these things are done in a structured learning environment where hopefully your child will enjoy the process of learning and not really notice they are doing “therapy”.  We are looking for natural interaction and learning rather than just sitting at a table doing drills.

For every session we will do a feedback sheet which may be given to you on the day or at your next appointment.  This is a brief overview of how things went and what was focused on.  These will be integrated into your quarterly review which will make sure that what we are doing is working.  If something isn’t right we will look at ways to fix the situation or if we feel that our approach is not working for your family we will happily refer you to someone who may fit with your circumstances and beliefs better and transfer any information that you give us permission to share.  Your privacy is vitally important to us and would not be given out without your specific prior authorisation.

Q. Regularitytop

With Autism more is better.  Research shows that information presented in a highly predictable manner ensures more responsiveness and attention for the child.  Unpredictable and disruptive behaviours usually occur when they are outside of their comfort zone or are not coping with the stimuli around them (can be emotional, social, environment etc) so we will look at strategies to minimise situations, stimuli and environments which will increase the chances of problems including teaching alternative appropriate behaviours and ways of communication as well as looking at triggers and ways of avoiding these triggers whilst keeping your child as independent and involved in their environment as possible.  This all needs to be combined with fostering an environment of independence and increasing their ability to cope with issues they will face daily.

The more we can see your child with regularity the better the results will be.  We cannot cure Autism nor are we a quick fix.  If you are willing to work with us however we believe we can make a significant contribution to your family unit.

Q. Who is part of the FOA consortium? top

Friends of Autism providing behavioural, group and family therapies, AIM Occupational Therapy, Smart Talk and Chatterbox Speech Pathology who work together to provide our range of services.  Please note that Consortium Members may change without notice – it is always the families’ personal choice use and continue with any services given.

Q. Transitioning to School Supporttop

Going to school, even if your child has been to kindy or day care, is going to be a big change.  We would like to assist your child and your family through this transition.  Apart from the above programs more specifically on schooling we will be able to assist with:

  • Discussing your schooling options and concerns with our qualified Teachers and Therapists
  • Going in with the right resources – we will be able to provide school schedules, individual children’s “passports” which is a summary of  your child’s strengths, things they like and don’t like as well as quick calming strategies.  Teachers and Aides find this an invaluable resource and can get a relief Teacher up to speed in minutes
  • Watching child designed imitation learning DVD’s either with our Therapists or you can take these home.  Your child can learn a great deal by watching these repeatedly
  • Parent resources from our free library to read up on strategies and get to know how you can help the process

We have a range of individual and group sessions available. Please refer to our schedule of coming events particularly to school holiday programs for more information.

Q. How do I access the information, resource and toy library? top

We have a number of home therapy packs available which we can post Australia wide for an additional $10 postage charge (subject to change without notice) and can use Skype for training and counselling sessions – just ask us.

Q. Where does the money I pay to FOA go?top

FOA is a registered charity with the Trustee company being not for profit. Therefore all fees paid to FOA are used to cover the operating costs and any excess is put straight back into providing additional charitable services within the Autism community. By using FOA you are also helping other families access our services.

Q. How do I pay for services?top

Most families will be accessing the funds available through the Helping Families with Autism Package.  This is $6,000 per year for a maximum of two years and stops once your child starts attending school.  At the end of each service you will be asked to sign a claim form and we will claim on your behalf.  You can elect to pay for all or part of our services yourself which would be payable at the end of the service being given.

For families who are not accessing the Package payments can be made in cash, by cheque, EFT or Credit Card and there is a separate set up fees for Clients unable to access the FACHSIA funding for FOA services.  There is a separate schedule of fees for non-ASD panel services which is subsidised by private fundraising.

Q. What if I want to stop services?top

This is your choice at any time.

Q. What if I don't like something you do?top

Speak with us about it.  If we can fix it we will.  If something does not fit in with your beliefs or values we are happy to refer you to somewhere that may suit your needs better.

Q. How is my child assessed?top

Through our standard assessment forms which we get you to fill in and we also do ourselves to compare perception of skills and issues your child maybe having in various environments.  You will also get feedback on sessions.  The standard assessment is done at the start and usually every 3-6 months throughout and at the end of your program with us.

Q. What happens when I run out of money?top

There are lots of ways we can help you get your dollar to go further i.e. by using students for therapy (much cheaper) purchasing our home therapy packs which come with parent training and you can add as many hours as you are willing to put in at home. As we are also a charity – speak with us about your circumstances. We have assessment criteria for services but we help children of all ages and are making all of our services available as and when we can so we may be able to assist you in reduced rates or free services depending on your family circumstances and our availability. Of course our information, resource, toy library and support groups will always be available to you.

Q. Why are there two sets of fees and when are they applicable? top

If families are funded by FACHSIA this funding MUST be used first (you may also be using other providers) and you will not be eligible for our charitable fee structure until you can show ALL these funds have been used.  You will find our FACHSIA fees more than reasonable compared to other providers.

Our charitable fee structure is a community service and fees are subsidised completely by private fundraising.  This is an arduous task and we must respect our contributors in showing our funds are used to the best advantage for the entire community. We have limited funds and require families using this fee structure to assist by contributing to our facilities on a regular basis by assisting and supporting (either you, a family member or friend/s) with fundraising activities, volunteering time for busy bee days etc.

Q. Can I have home visits?top

Yes – There is lots to learn from the family. There may be a travel fee depending on your circumstances and how far away you live from our premises.  You can discuss this individually with our staff.

Q. What happens in a children's group therapy session? top

We get together a small group of peers and do a variety of activities designed to encourage peer interaction, communication, transitioning from one task to another as well as taking instructions, looking at any sensory issues etc. We do this in a fun environment and may involve such activities as playing group games, music, craft, conversation in questions and answers etc. From this we can get a real feel as to the issues we need to work on before your child goes to school.

Q. What happens in a one on one session? top

We work on individual issues more intensively; we still use the fun motivation style of teaching but work in specific areas we have discussed during the assessment process.

Q. Can I stay during the sessions?top

Whilst we understand it is difficult to trust someone else with your child it is best for your child to have sessions alone with the Therapists – this does not allow them to "run to mum" when they don't like something and in the end we find it yields better results in the long term. Should you wish to stay please discuss this with our therapists. At the end of sessions you will receive feedback.

Q. Why don't you use just traditional ABA? top

We take a holistic family view of Autism. Although ABA can be a valuable therapy our program is designed to be family orientated and create a love of learning in children. We feel that the exclusive use of ABA is too rigid and therefore use a range of proven methods in conjunction with each other to gain the best outcome for your child. This will include looking and working towards the goals set by you, using some ABA methods, looking at behavioural issues and outcomes as well as play based therapies for interaction, socialisation, behaviour and skill development.  Our methods, just as those of others, will not suit everyone.  You are the expert on your child and need to decide which methods are best for you.



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