What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects how a person communicates and interacts with their environment. It is a life-long condition, with around 1 in every 70 Australians affected. People with autism can experience difficulties with social interactions or communication and may display repetitive or restricted behaviours that are emotional, physical or both. Many people with autism also experience sensitivity to touch, sounds and smells. It’s important to remember that just as we all have individual personalities with unique strengths and weaknesses, no two people with autism have exactly the same characteristics or challenges.
What does the term ‘spectrum’ mean?
The term ‘spectrum’ is used to explain the range of characteristics that can present in a person with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Some people with autism may be described as ‘high functioning’ because they are able to function well in social situations. Some people may be comfortable with sensory interaction while others are not. Some people may have poor conversation skills while others may have more typical speech. With autism, there is no one-size-fits-all.
What causes autism?
While there is a lot of study being done into what causes autism, for now, we don’t know the exact cause. Experts suggest that there is a range of developmental, genetic and environmental factors that may contribute, but the research is ongoing. Although there is no cure for autism, strategies such as therapy and support are helping people with autism thrive.
What characteristics are typical to autism?
Common characteristics shared by people with autism may include all or some of the following:
- Showing disinterest in social interactions
- Difficulty upholding back-and-forth conversation
- Issues with non-verbal communication such as body language and facial expressions
- Repetitive movements or speech patterns
- Strict adherence to routines with obvious distress shown when changes are made to that routine
- Restricted or fixated relationships with topics or objects
- Delays in language development
- Sleeping issues
- High levels of anxiety
- Difficulties maintaining attention
How common is autism in Australia?
How is autism diagnosed?
There is currently no definitive test for the diagnosis of autism. Instead, a series of developmental assessments and behavioural observations are completed by a reliable professional or team of professionals to gain an overall understanding of the individual. Most commonly, autism is identified in young people after they begin socialising in a classroom or family setting.
Who can diagnose autism?
Autism should only be diagnosed by a specialist multidisciplinary team, pediatrician, psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. There are both government funded and private services available to the public.
Can adults with autism live independently?
With the right support, many people with autism will lead to active and independent adult lives. Organisations like Mambourin are dedicated to supporting people with autism to build practical life skills that grow their confidence and help them to live life on their terms.
We can help build skills in:
- Personal care and self-care
- Health and wellbeing
- Communication skills
- Healthy meal preparation
- Meal planning and grocery shopping
- Budgeting and home management
- Goal setting
- General skill development
- Using transport (getting out and about)
- Positive behaviour support
What support is available to people with autism?
Luckily, there are lots of resources to support people with autism and their families. If you’re new to it all, Amaze is a good place for people living in Victoria to start.
Talking to a group of people who can relate to your experiences can also be helpful. Here’s a list of support groups around Victoria.
Where can I learn about social activities for people living with autism?
Difficulty navigating social interactions is a typical characteristic in people with autism, so getting out and connecting with people in a safe environment is important for enhancing social participation and building new skills.
Mambourin offers a range of Social and interest choices that almost always take place in a group setting.
We know that everyone is unique, so no matter what you want to learn or are interested in, we will do our very best to connect you to it.
Social and interest choices:
- Arts and crafts
- Various leisure options
- Gym and fitness
- Swimming and swim safety
- Meditation and self-care
- Performance and expressive arts
- Hip-hop dancing and music production
- Radio hosting and production
- Choir and singing
- Computers and digital tech
- Movie making
What leisure and recreation choices are available for people living with autism?
Along with social and interest choices, Mambourin offers a great range of leisure and recreation choices for those who are interested in getting out and about!
Our wide range of leisure and recreation choices include:
- Weekends At Mambourin (known as WAM!) – group social activities on the weekend
- Flexi-choices – individual activities as and when you want them
- Assisted holidays – ask us about assisted weekends away!
Weekend activities are varied to suit all tastes and you can choose which ones you’d like to join. Some of our more popular options include:
- Tenpin bowling
- Melbourne and Werribee Zoos
- AFL matches
- Live music
- Dance parties
- Music therapy programs
- Car shows and racing
- Wrestling (local and international)
- Local markets and shows
- Museums and art galleries
What community programs are available for people living with autism?
Getting out and about in the community, either in a group setting or one-on-one is a great way to improve your communication and social skills. Mambourin has a huge range of structured, group-based activities and individual outings to choose from that we like to call community choices.
Your community choices:
- Shopping trips
- Community events
- Nature walks
- Bowling (lawn and ten pin)
- BBQs and lunches
- Day trips and sightseeing
- Art exhibitions and museums
- Movies and theatre
- Clubbing and parties
- Major events and concerts
- Sports and recreation events
What employment opportunities are available for people living with autism?
Unfortunately, finding employment can be difficult for those living with autism. In Australia, the unemployment rate for people with autism is 31.6 per cent. That’s almost six times the rate of people without a disability. The good news is that with the right network and opportunities, many people with autism can find work in a variety of fields.
Speak to Mambourin about your employment goals and we will work to connect you to every opportunity to make them happen. We have a range of pathways to further training and offer on-the-job support when you need it.
Opportunities we can provide include:
- Our Business Solutions warehouse which offers work in packaging, assembly and logistics services from our award-winning Derrimut warehouse
- Our professional gardening team servicing the Western Melbourne and CBD regions
- Our administrative team which gives you the opportunity to learn administration and front-of-house duties
Are there traineeships available for people living with autism?
For people with autism aged 16 and over and still enrolled in school, a Mambourin Traineeship is a great pathway to further study or employment.
The best part? You get paid as you go!
Current traineeships offered at Mambourin include:
- Certificate II Warehousing Operations
- Certificate III Warehousing Operations
- Certificate II Horticulture