By Gabriella Payne
A colourful celebration was held recently at Irabina Autism Services in Pakenham, as staff and families came together with dress ups and face paint to celebrate world autism awareness week.
From Monday 29 March to Sunday 4 April, world autism awareness week is a global initiative allowing those who have experienced autism in one way or another to share their experiences and come together to celebrate and help educate others.
Debra Goldfinch, the CEO of Irabina said that it had been a fantastic opportunity for everyone to have a bit of fun and embrace each other’s unique qualities, whilst spreading a bit of awareness in the community.
“It has been an amazing week with parents and our young people, adults and siblings all talking about the wonderfulness of autism,” Ms Goldfinch said.
This year, Irabina’s celebrations were focused around spreading awareness in the community, as Ms Goldfinch said that people on the autism spectrum were often misunderstood.
“Autism is so many different things. People often have a preconceived idea about what it is, and that’s not always right.”
Ms Goldfinch said that “even the most complex young person” has so many wonderful, unique qualities to offer and you could truly “find the treasure in each of them”.
Staff and families enjoyed dressing up as superheroes for one day, and a range of other activities were held including afternoon teas, parent get-togethers and show-and-tells that people of all abilities were able to get involved in.
Having started 51 years ago, Irabina was created by two mums who organised a play-date for their children on the spectrum.
Since then, the organisation has grown and caters to many people throughout the community, including anyone who has been touched by autism in some way.
“We work with all autism, no matter the presentation,” Ms Goldfinch said.
“But there are opportunities not just for the kids, but also for the families and the parents as well,” she said.
“Even though autism may be different for each child, parents share this unique bond where they get each other, and that’s really important and lovely to see.”
Ms Goldfinch said that it was just so “wonderful” to see the sea of “smiling faces” at the range of events Irabina held for world autism awareness week, and she was looking forward to holding more celebrations like it in the future.
“We aim to always make them feel that they belong in a community that really cares about them, and we will never turn anyone away,” she said.