COVID-19 updates for the AnglicareSA community | Read more

AnglicareSA Disability and Wellbeing Services’ new Autism Diagnostic Service is meeting a growing need in the early identification of autism spectrum disorder.

As a leader in the provision of therapeutic supports to children and young people with disability in South Australia, AnglicareSA launched the pilot program at the start of 2023, and 12 months on it is being hailed as a success.

Clinical Lead and Diagnostician, Liliana Claassen, said four years ago she and another speech pathologist based at the Daphne Street Autism-Specific Early Learning and Care Centre did some training focused on diagnostic assessments and identified a gap in services available to the community.

“We work in the early childhood learning space and had a lot of experience with children waiting for diagnostic assessment, so we set about establishing a program that would work for AnglicareSA and address our professional needs as well,” she said.

“At the moment in the public system people are waiting around two to three years for that crucial assessment.

“Private providers are a lot quicker to get into but they still have wait lists, so we were to be able to reduce those wait times through our services, get people in as soon as possible, and get that diagnostic outcome and they can then access support services.”

The assessment includes a play-based observation and standardised assessments as well as a parent interview.

Information gathered, results from assessments, and observations are considered against the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Edition (DSM-V) to determine if the child meets the criteria for diagnosis.

The diagnostic report can be used to support an application for NDIS funding so that the child can receive appropriate supports to help them thrive.

Liliana said during the initial six-month first phase of the pilot seven assessments were completed, with the goal to complete the process from inquiry through to delivery of the assessment within 12 weeks.

“All assessments were achieved ahead of that 12-week target, and we had really positive feedback from customers around quality of services,” she said.

“We also looked at how we could implement this program fully while maintaining our existing workloads and we were able to able to that within fewer hours than we were expecting.”

The program was such a success that an additional therapist was brought on board and a training program developed to build capacity internally to keep the service running.

In 2023, a total of 12 children were diagnosed by AnglicareSA’s trained diagnosticians (speech pathologists) and partnered psychologists.

Feedback from families was overwhelmingly positive in relation to the ease of processes, supports in place, and the sensitive approach.

One parent said: “There is a very real need in the community for this. We waited for more than two years for an assessment, and it was very lucky I ran across this program and was fortunate enough to be accepted.”

AnglicareSA is receiving referrals for assessments in 2024. If you are interested or want further information on the Autism Diagnostic Service, please contact [email protected] or call 1800 953 001.

An intergenerational playgroup trial has harnessed the benefits of occupational therapy to support some of AnglicaresA’s oldest as well as youngest customers.

Occupational Therapy graduates Alicia and Hannah created the playgroup as part of their new graduate program with AnglicareSA, bringing together aged care customers and young children from the Daphne Street Early Learning Centre.

With a mixture of arts and craft, music and song, the three trial sessions held at the Prospect Library at the end of the year have the potential to become a more broader playgroup experience following a review.

“In the sessions we’ve designed a lot of crafty activities,” Alicia explains. “Activities that both the older adults and young children can participate in and help each other with and work together on.

“One of the activities was partnering up an older person and young child and they drew portraits of each other.

“They helped each other out with their drawings and then they swapped at the end they presented to each other in the end.”

When it comes down it to it the intergenerational playgroups are a lot of fun, however these types of interactions and sessions deliver much more benefits than a few smiles and a bit of laughter.

“There’s been lots of studies in Australia which we have been reading as part of this project and the benefits of this playgroup in terms of older adults can be seen in a social connection which means relationships are improving.

“Just getting that sense of like a ‘roll back’ because I know some older adults, one of the concerns could be loneliness particularly during COVID and maybe not seeing family as much.”

Occupational Therapy graduates Alicia and Hannah created the playgroup as part of their new graduate program with AnglicareSA.

While that social connectedness is a significant and positive factor for older people, it is also an effective learning and development tool for children.

Some of the benefits identified in previous studies include learning and communication skills, as well as language development and following instructions

“Just learning about older generations and their life and how to communicate which there have been some systematic reviews and really good studies showing the benefits of that.”

For playgroup participant Alice, it was an opportunity to work alongside her young friend Patrick, decorating and making musical instruments, laughing that she’ll take them back to share with her regular choir friends.

“This is the first time I’ve done something like this,” Alice says. “I’m normally quite busy out and about with things like my choir, but I’m glad I came because children are great.

“I have grandkids and you just let them come to you on their terms and in their own time, but you can always get along with them.”

With the trial sessions completed, Alicia says an evaluation of the playgroup project results will take place with a final report bringing it all together.

“And in terms of feasibility for AnglicareSA moving forward, hopefully it will be able to foster this pilot project, move it forward and continue it on into the future as well.”

Occupational therapy is just one of a range of allied health services we offer as well as physiotherapy, podiatry, exercise physiology and massage.

For more information about our Health and Wellness Services, click here.