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The Mix social groups in the north and south of Adelaide are helping autistic children to engage in social activities in a safe environment without judgement or shame.

The groups, run by Diverse Learning and funded by AnglicareSA’s Communities for Children Playford and Onkaparinga programs, also welcome siblings and families outside the autism community.

Founder and Director of Diverse Learning, Meg Eusope, said the social pressure that autistic children feel to ‘fit in’ (known as masking) in the community is thrown out the door at The Mix.

“It’s a space where the children can fully be themselves without judgement or imposition of how they ‘should’ behave,” Meg said.

She said constant masking could lead to poor mental health outcomes for autistic people, including burnout, social anxiety, and depression.

That’s why The Mix focuses on building self-esteem.  

“We ensure that everyone involved in The Mix feels safe, supported, valued, and respects others’ differences and interests,” Meg said.

“Interacting with others and getting involved in different activities helps attendees build confidence and self-esteem, which boosts their overall mental health.”  

Autistic people might encounter difficulties in social situations, as behaviours like avoiding eye contact and struggling with small talk can be misunderstood.

Meg said The Mix aimed to reduce the overwhelming feeling autistic young people might experience when socialising by incorporating special interests into group activities.

“Special interests are not just accommodated, but embraced, encouraged and celebrated at The Mix,” she said.

“For each session, we organise a range of activities based on a theme the children are interested in, including science, crafts, games, and physical activities.”

Georgina, Andi, Marguerita, Lani, Meg, and Bel from Diverse Learning.

Gen and her son Will (pictured in main image) attend every session of The Mix and said they had found a community of people who are accepting of him.

“He can be goofy, express himself, and stim in joy without anyone even blinking,” Gen said.

“It feels great to be in an environment that normalises things.”

Now, almost a year later, Gen said she had noticed changes in Will far beyond expectations.

“When we first started attending The Mix, Will was adamant that he was going to keep homeschooling forever,” Gen said.

“When he started experiencing social success with the other kids and found safe adults, he started experimenting with doing more activities.

“This year, Will decided to go to school and has successfully transitioned. Without the foundation of the success he built at The Mix, I think that might have been some years off.

“He is more confident, resilient and able to speak up for his needs.”

Gen said attending the group had also been beneficial for her as a parent of neurodivergent children, including Will.

“The program staff genuinely care and take the time to look after the whole family’s needs. I have been able to let my guard down for a while, knowing Will was safe – this is not something we often experience in group settings.

“It can be isolating in a high-needs household, and the group has been a reliable way for me to connect with others and feel supported.”

AnglicareSA’s Communities for Children programs in Playford and Onkaparinga are funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

Get Mix-ing

The Mix is held fortnightly during school terms on Thursday evenings from 5pm to 6:30pm and is designed for children aged 8-14. Siblings are welcome to join the fun under parental supervision.

  • The Mix North: The Platform, 73 Elizabeth Way, Elizabeth
  • The Mix South: Wardli Youth Centre, 13 McKinna Road, Christie Downs

For more information, please call 8102 8340 or visit Diverse Learning’s website.