SASI (Statewide Autistic Services Ltd) opened its doors as the Victorian Children’s Association in Cheltenham in 1966. Fast-forward through more than 50 years of providing services for people on the autism spectrum and their families and things look mighty different.
SASI Seaford hub practitioner Christine Sutton has been working in the disability sector for 28 years. She explains: “We are extremely excited to be offering a new model of service delivery which is completely client-driven. Our Seaford site had to close last year due to COVID-19. This gave us a chance to renovate and reinvigorate the space. We are now thrilled to offer a range of programs across the visual and performing arts, information technology and gaming, hospitality and SLES – which is a school-leavers’ employment service – to our clients. SASI Seaford is now a space where people on the spectrum can learn new skills, integrate, and expand. The hub will offer real-life skills to clients, which in turn will help them thrive in the community.”
So how do they do it? By employing industry-based people who deliver skills-based programs. The performing arts program, which includes drama, movement and backstage learning, is delivered by a working actor who understands the mechanics of theatre and screen production. The music program is devised by a professional musician, while the IT and gaming program is delivered by a gaming expert who has had extensive experience in the retail gaming arena. A professional chef runs the hospitality program and highlights both nutrition and food as art. There is also an onsite café where clients can develop their barista and hospitality skills.
Christine continues: “It was very important that we employ people with exceptional professional skills. All our program leaders are industry-based and are keen to impart knowledge to others. We also have a new thriving garden program where clients can plant and grow vegetables, look after chickens, collect their eggs, and then cook with them. SASI is a not-for-profit which relies on funding from the government and donations. We are here to provide real-life skills to people on the autism spectrum and with other complex disabilities and see our role as providing a stepping stone to the outside world.”
For anyone who knows a person with ASD and sees how difficult it is to retain and transfer life skills, the new-look SASI Seaford hub will come as a refreshing revelation. If you know an ASD school-leaver or young adult who needs a bit of help finding their feet, then this could be a great place to start. The hub was launched on May 27 and the staff at 13 Sir Laurence Drive are raring to go, so give them a call on 1300 577 305 to get the ball rolling.