24 August 2022

Work starts on new early-intervention autism hub to help Canberra region families

| Ian Bushnell
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Brian and Katie Meilak

Brian and Katie Meilak says AEIOU Foundation’s services are much-needed in Canberra. Photo: Paul Chapman, Mode Imagery.

Isabella Plains couple Brian and Katie Meilak moved to Queensland in 2015 to access autism services for their son Zachary, but now a new autism hub in Canberra will mean families in the region will get the help they need here in the national capital.

The world-class autism hub, with $3.5 million in capital funding from the John James Foundation and owned and operated by the AEIOU Foundation, will deliver early intervention services for up to 40 children per year, as well as research and training.

The purpose-built AEIOU Garran Centre for Autism will be the first of its kind in Canberra, and announces the Foundation’s entry into the ACT.

The AEIOU Foundation is one of Australia’s leading providers of autism-specific early intervention services and operates 10 centres across Queensland and South Australia.

At a sod-turning ceremony to mark the start of the centre’s construction, the Meilaks, now back in Canberra and with Zachary attending primary school, were excited that Canberra would get this service.

“It is much needed to support children with autism in the ACT,” said Mr Meilak, whose family even lived apart for a year so Zachary could get the help he needed.

“AEIOU helped my son with things such as toilet training, speech, behaviour, communication, interaction with other kids and a whole range of activities, through working with the educators at AEIOU.”

The centre will be located on the corner of Curlewis Crescent and Rusden Street in Garran, and will occupy 1,200 square metres of land with a state-of-the-art learning centre, playground and parking facilities.

When the centre opens by early 2021, it will cater for children aged between two and six years who will be supported by a specialist team comprised of speech pathologists, occupational therapists, behavioural therapists and early childhood educators.

A render of the new centre being built in Garran

A render of the new centre being built in Garran. Image: Supplied.

AEIOU delivers a minimum of 20 hours’ specialised early intervention per week in a naturalistic environment, similar to that of childcare and kindergarten setting, to best prepare children for transition to their next educational setting.

Using a transdisciplinary team approach, staff work together to develop and implement a range of group-based therapies and support in a long day-care setting.

AEIOU CEO Alan Smith praised the John James Foundation for investing in evidence-based early intervention services that have the potential to change the future trajectory for young children with autism.

“This demonstrates a commitment to young families and the community in Canberra and New South Wales. Early intervention is life-changing. It offers hope, unlocks potential and opens up possibilities for families and their young children at a critical time of their life,” he said.

“At AEIOU, children and their families receive unique support. We teach essential life skills that enable children to overcome the disabling aspects of autism, giving them the best chance to reach their full potential.

“Families also receive training and support, as they navigate the early years of an autism diagnosis.”

John James Foundation CEO Joe Roff said talks with AEIOU Foundation started two years ago, with a goal to bring its expertise to Canberra for the benefit of the community.

“Canberra families have previously relocated to Queensland to access these services. Families will now be able to stay close to family and friends, with the autism-specific support they need,” he said.

Project Coordination will undertake the design, in consultation with the Buchan Group, and construction of the

To learn more about the AEIOU Foundation for Children with Autism, visit AEIOU.

Sod turning

Getting started: AEIOU CEO Alan Smith, John James Foundation CEO Joe Roff, Minister for Disability Suzanne Orr, Chair of John James Foundation Paul Smith, and AEIOU Chair Susan Rix. Photo: Paul Chapman, Mode Imagery.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on The RiotACT.

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