Taree’s autism support group, Taree Autism Meet and Share, has gone from strength to strength.
Established at the start of 2018 by co-ordinator and autism consultant Melissa Reece (who is on the spectrum herself and also has a son on the spectrum), there are about 15 people attending when they can, with room for more.
“It’s an extension of family and for some it is their only social network.
“It’s a place where people can come and feel comfortable and surrounded by people who have the same kind of normal, where you don’t have to explain the backstory.”
Melissa said it can be tricky to come to a social group because with autism there comes social anxiety.
She said the group is designed to help people on the spectrum, to support people who are supporting those on the spectrum, to raise awareness in the community of the needs of people with autism and support those in the community supporting people on the spectrum.
“This group specifically helps out people on the spectrum and supports people who are supporting people on the spectrum.
“We also want to give the entire community a better awareness of what is going on and help people who are looking for work, have their needs met at school, or even going to the cinema and needing the volume turned down.”
Informal and needs based, the Taree Autism Meet and Share has come together twice a month, with occasional guest speakers from NDIS, services including APM, Life Without Barriers, Breakthru, Ability Links, Samaritans, GAMA and have also participated in workshops such as art and drumming, visited 2BOB radio station, and had a picnic.
The next meeting (and final one for the year) is on December 11 at 10am, where Rachel Goodwin will speak about nutrition and the side effects of preservatives, flavouring and colouring in food.
Planned speakers for next year include Mydie Keegan from One Door Mental Health Carer Services and a representative from Rainbow Warriors football.
The group has had positive outcomes with some members going on to employment agencies, attending music and art workshops, one starting singing lessons and more.
After the Christmas break, the group will resume in the second week of January with plans to extend activities to include carers meetings on the first and third Tuesday of the month, an evening support group, a social group for people on the autism spectrum, a magazine and radio show.
Melissa became a qualified autism consultant during the year and now works with people on and off the spectrum and of people of all ages, in school and out of school, at SPOT (Sherlock Paediatric Occupational Therapy).
She said her son Oscar has been taken on for work experience with Mitch Spiteri at the Wallabi Point cafe, and the cafe will be the location for the carers meetings next year, as well as exhibiting the artwork of group member Kye Baker.
Kye has regularly attended group meetings this year and said they have been beneficial to him.
“I realised I’m not the only one on the spectrum having problems and trying to make a life, and to feel like I’m contributing to the group.”
At one meeting he spoke about travelling and coping with travelling while on the spectrum.
He also participates in Brushes with Life and was part of the recent exhibition at Manning Regional Art Gallery. “I can’t remember a time I didn’t have a brush or was doing something creative.”
For more information about Taree Autism Meet and Share go to the website: www.meetandshare.org.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Melissa can also be contacted by phoning 0468 515 164.
Meetings are held 10am to noon on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at RiverCity Church in Cowper Street, Taree.