Soon-to-be released research by Playgroup Australia will confirm the enormous benefit that families receive from playgroups developed specifically for children diagnosed with autism.
A report based on the experiences of 41 families who attended PlayConnect playgroups, which will be released in April for Autism Awareness Month, shows that 80% of these families said it had improved their child’s development.
The benefits were not restricted to the children, with 98% of respondents saying that meeting and communicating with other families in similar situations was the most positive aspect of the PlayConnect program.
PlayConnect Playgroups offer a unique experience for children under six with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – the opportunity to play, connect and socialise with other children and their parents in a safe and fun environment. The aim is to have 150 such groups running nationally by the end of 2011.
Child and Family Psychologist, Dr John Irvine, says he often speaks to parents who say their child with ASD can think, play or interact differently to other children which can be isolating for the whole family.
“All kids learn skills through play, but it is even more important for children with ASD and ASD like symptoms to have the chance to play in groups that follow routines which are so important to them and for parents to feel supported. That’s why these groups are so important and why these results are so encouraging”
According to Playgroup Australia Executive Officer, Karen Merange the success of the program to date looks set to ensure its continued expansion.
“We are delighted that the research will confirm great outcomes from these groups for the families involved. We bring parents together for networking and information-sharing, and show them how to use play-based learning specific to a child with ASD. It is clearly making a big difference to people’s lives.”
The PlayConnect Playgroups are free to attend and there are groups in every State and Territory. The Australian Government is providing $4.5 million funding over four years for the delivery of PlayConnect Playgroups as part of the $190 million ‘Helping Children with Autism’ (HCWA) package to help address the need for support and services for children with ASD.
For information about PlayConnect Playgroups call the Playgroup Association in your State or Territory on 1800 171 882 or visit www.playconnect.com.au .