‘Strive for Autism’ initially started as a support group for families of children with Autism. Over the years the group has evolved and in addition to offering family support, they are now engaged in educating, advocating and building community awareness surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Each year the group raises money to help improve outcomes for children who are living with Autism in the Hunter region.
Many of the wonderful volunteers who make-up Strive’s committee have had personal experience in raising children with autism and know all too well the challenges often encountered when a child with Autism ventures into mainstream schooling. Unfortunately, there is a critical lack of specialist education services for children with Autism in the Hunter region. This means that mainstream schooling is the only option for a large number of autistic children. Strive made us aware of plans which were already in place to build a specialist high school in the Hunter region. This was a project both Strive and our entire Hunter team were incredibly eager to be behind. In August, Strive for Autism joined forces with our Beyond Bank community team and local man and golf enthusiast Ray McGuiness to organise and host a golf day to raise much-needed funds which would assist to get the high school up and running.
The Strive for Autism golf day was held in the Hunter in August and attracted over 100 players from all over NSW. Through the kind donations of local people and businesses, we were able to hold several silent auctions, live auctions and a raffle. A number of our Beyond Bank team volunteered on the day assisting with everything from serving drinks on the golf cart, to selling raffle tickets, setting up the venue and speaking at the event. We also entered a team of players. While all of our players looked great in purple the general consensus was that none of them should quit their day jobs anytime soon.
Last week, our Beyond Bank team with the help of Maxine Baird who is the president of Strive for Autism presented a cheque of over $10,000 to Aspect Hunter School to support them with building and operating their new school. Aspect Hunter High school is under construction in Thornton and will open in January 2019. This will expand the grounds of Aspect Hunter Primary School which opened in 2011. Since its inception, Aspect Hunter school has provided primary school aged students with individual strength-based programs that cater to their needs and interests. The school has provided the Hunter with its very own Cinderella story with many former students building the skills required to transition into mainstream schooling.
Transitioning a child with Autism into a mainstream schooling is not a simple task. It requires careful planning to ensure it is a successful process. Often transitions are done in collaboration with a number of teaching and support staff, families, intervention services and the child. In some cases, the students are not ready for this transition and when they reach an age where they must go onto high school they are left in limbo. Teachers at Aspect recognised this and have worked tirelessly to make a high school available to these students.
Like their primary school, Aspect Hunter High school will offer a range of resources and spaces which provide students with the sensory stimulation and support needed for them to learn and achieve their individual goals. The high school is a first of its kind and will include programs and facilities for students to learn life skills which will support them as they get older and move on from formal schooling. Principal Lara Cheney has indicated that the school will also offer programs which will allow their students to secure employment. This will include training in hospitality, horticulture, fitness and technology.
We would like to congratulate our wonderful team for all their hard work during our event and in the lead-up. Without the support of our amazing employees and wonderful community volunteers like Ray McGuiness we would not have success stories to share.
Aspect continues to look for donations to complete the project. For more information be sure to contact the school on (02) 4922 5900 or visit their website https://www.autismspectrum.org.au/school/aspect-hunter-school .