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Canberra’s first early-learning autism hub is coming to town

Little ones living with autism will soon have an early-learning hub to attend in the Canberra region, assisting them with their transition into early education.

The world-class early-intervention autism hub, being established by the AEIOU Foundation, started construction on Wednesday (29 July), and is set to be complete on 30 April 2021.

AEIOU CEO Alan Smith said the centre, which will be up and running by 1 July 2021, was the first of its kind in the ACT.

“The plan is to open a facility that supports two- to six-year-olds with moderate to severe autism through behavioural therapy, speech pathology and occupational therapy,” he said.

“We are looking at providing these children with life skills that will help them in their journey into their next stage of learning at Prep or Kindergarten.

“We have created the only curriculum worldwide that is focused on social acquisition.”

The curriculum is based around 290 self-help skills, including communication, toileting, and social skills, and is catered to each child individually.

The hub will cater for up to 50 children between the ages of two and six and children are supported by a specialist team in small groups.

Mr Smith said the foundation was already on the hunt for suitable staff for the upcoming hub. 

“Finding suitably qualified staff can be a bit tricky so we are on the forefront of that now,” he said.

“Starting early ensures we can get quality staff and give them sufficient training, so we are ready to go when it’s all up and running.”

Canberra’s Marymead Autism Centre has also thrown its support around the AEIOU Foundation’s upcoming hub, as CEO Helen Gardner said the more resources in the region, the better.

“Through our work with children on the spectrum and their families across the ACT and surrounds, we know that having more resources and options available is a plus for families,” Ms Gardner said.

The AEIOU Foundation currently has centres in South Australia and Queensland, and the expansion into the ACT has been made possible by $4.3 million in capital funding from the John James Foundation.

The centre will be located in Garran, ACT, and Mr Smith said families could now register their interest to join the waitlist.

“We are looking forward to working with and supporting the Canberra community,” he said.

“AEIOU’s service will complement the autism-specific supports already available in the Canberra region.

“We are so pleased to be in the company of such organisations as Marymead Autism Centre who offer great support and outreach for people with autism and their families or carers.”

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