Lighting up Autism…
Light Up Autism Foundation was the inspired idea of Bianca Appleford, who through personal circumstance came to recognise the need for greater support within schools, for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder & other learning difficulties. In October of 2012, frustrated but determined to get the help she needed, even if she had to do it herself, Bianca took matters into her own hands and Light Up Autism Foundation was born. The foundation has since been granted status as a registered charity and established its first in-school programs.
Research shows that early intervention with ABA therapy is the most effective approach for improving the social, emotional & cognitive outcomes of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The beginning of school does not mark the end of the need for this specific support however. The provision of ABA therapy in the mainstream school environment can demonstrably ease transition and improve outcomes for children with autism and can help teachers better meet their needs, in the classroom. It also usually requires external resources that many schools can not afford.
Light Up Autism Foundation provides educational assistance to school children with autism. In collaboration with the child’s school, the foundation funds and facilitates ABA programs within the student’s school setting. It’s aim is to build a network of therapeutic programs & specialist teacher training, which continue the work of the early intervention that many children with autism now receive prior to school & to reach some who may have missed vital early intervention, so that their mainstream school experience is a positive one for everyone.
Via our relationships with clinical professionals, experienced in the field of autism, Light Up Autism Foundation has the resources to conduct professional development for teachers and teacher aides, as well as facilitate the development and management of individualized ABA programs for children, with specialist therapists and managing Psychologists.
The foundation’s goal is to ensure the brightest possible future for children with autism attending mainstream schools, by providing professional support and care of these students within their school at no cost to families participating in the program. This individualised programming also serves to support the school aide and classroom teacher, as well as the student and their family.
Light Up Autism Foundation also aims to be an advocate for children with ASD and their families within the school and community. We currently have a successful program running at Boneo & Rye Primary School, and a waiting list of other schools waiting to begin once funding is secured.
Boneo Primary school pilot
In late 2012 Bianca Appleford (Light Up Autism Foundation founder and President) and Gill Wright (Principal, Boneo Primary School) worked hard viewing programs in schools that could be implemented to better help Bianca’s son Sam & other children with autism, at Boneo primary school. While a number of programs looked great the costs were largely unsustainable in the long term. After much consultation a program model that is financially viable and that fitted within the primary education system was developed.
At the beginning of the 2013 school year Boneo Primary School agreed to allow Light Up Autism Foundation to train the school integration aids in ABA therapy for the program. The trained integration aids now implement the 1:1 ABA therapy programs with the children in the program and also have the skills to address issues within regular class time.
By the end of the first year the program had proved to be a spectacular success at every level. The responsiveness of the program to the needs of the children and the school exceeded all expectations. By the third term of the school year the children involved had made outstanding academic progress, which enabled a more collaborative approach to the programming between the Senior Program Therapist and the teachers and integration aides, responding to the immediate needs of the children from week to week. The result has been a program that is highly attuned to each of the children in a very immediate & demonstrable way. The integration aides have found their new ABA therapy skills so effective that they are using them across the board, whether the children they are working with have a ASD diagnosis or not.
Most importantly it’s the children who have benefited. They are building relationships with their peers, having made enormous social and emotional interaction improvements, as a result of the frequent input from role-projection and expressive language modelling that the program includes. Their teachers have noticed a significant decrease in anxiety, more connection in the classroom, and generally more confident and better integrated children because of their participation in the Light Up Autism Foundation ABA program.
“As Principal of Boneo Primary School I have been very impressed with the Light Up Autism Foundation ABA program.
Before the program the children at our school with autism were working on individual programs set by their class teachers. These programs were good but not as specific as the targeted programs set by the ABA professionals.
Since bringing ABA into the school we have noticed a significant difference in all of our children with autism. They are connected to their learning and making real, recordable progress. Each child has a unique program that addresses their particular needs academically, socially and emotionally. The program is designed with a team including the classroom teacher and the child’s parents. It is constantly reviewed and assessed. This attention to detail ensures the success of the program. The integration aides working with the students love the ability to help the children move forward with their learning. Our children with autism are experiencing less anxiety and more success in the classroom. They love their ABA sessions and are all thriving.
I am totally committed to ABA and believe it provides our students with an excellent opportunity to grow and develop.”
Principal, Boneo Primary
In 2014, following the success of the original pilot at Boneo Primary School, we have been able to expand the program to include Rosebud Primary School and are currently arranging funding to bring students from Rye Primary School on board. Development is currently underway regarding the provision of teacher and parent training in ABA therapy to ensure a consistent response to our students needs. The results from the program are exceedingly positive and in the very long term Light Up Autism Foundation would like to see this program offered in all schools across Victoria.