A Bundaberg occupational therapist is working to help spread a message of support and acceptance as part of Autism Awareness Month.
Gemma Osborne from Bundaberg Occupational Therapy is passionate about ensuring community members have access to a range of programs, no matter their abilities.
Gemma said she understood there were some common misconceptions about the challenges of living with autism which could be addressed by raising awareness.
She encouraged residents to take the time to learn from and connect with people who have autism and creating a culture of acceptance.
“I think there is still a lot of misinformation about autism along with a stigma and instances of exclusion in the community which really affects autistic people and their families when they interact with the community,” she said.
“I think it is easy for everybody to make assumptions and stereotypes based on their own individual experience with autism, with common misconceptions including autism being an illness or condition or an intellectual impairment, which is not the case at all.
“It is a different way of processing and viewing the world.”
Gemma said through her work she saw a number of children day to day with autism who all needed differing levels of support.
“I see a range of different children here, of varying ages and abilities and being an OT is all about helping people of all abilities to participate in everyday activities that they find meaningful,” Gemma said.
“For many of them therapy is based on their NDIS plans, from which we have built specific meaningful goals together with the child and their family.
“Therapy looks like getting to know the individual and their abilities, tapping into their interests and motivation and engaging them in skill building activities or adapting or changing the environment to support their engagement across home, school and community.”
Group formed to work towards autism acceptance
Groups within the community, such as the newly formed All Abilities Alliance group which was established at the start of April, also provide a number of benefits for the community.
Gemma said breaking down the stigma and misconceptions takes time, but groups such as the All Abilities Alliance were an important aspect of moving forward.
“Often it takes a lot of small changes over time to break that down, so increasing awareness is important because that leads to acceptance,” she said.
“Groups like the All Abilities Alliance can really help to build a culture of acceptance, not just awareness.”
“They can teach the community how to really celebrate differences as it is so important for everyone to feel included and accepted within a community, that is what a community should be and that starts with small changes.”
You can find out more about the All Abilities Alliance here.
Other stories: Lots on offer at Childers Heritage Weekend