When Alan Netherclift and his family started respite care several years ago, their lives changed.
- Access to respite care can be difficult for families with children with autism due to high demand
- Mansfield Autism Statewide Service says some families can’t even get on the waiting list for rest
- The organization is building therapeutic care farms, including cabins, so families can go on vacation with the support of staff.
Netherclift’s 10-year-old son Perry was diagnosed with autism at an early age.
“It gives you a chance to break the water and breathe so you can keep swimming,” Nethercrift said.
“I think a lot of people underestimate its importance.”
Families accessed planned respite care through Mansfield Autism Statewide Services, a non-profit organization that supports children with autism and their families in Victoria.
Netherclift said she had the opportunity to spend time with her daughter while Perry was supported by staff who understand the needs of children with autism.
“It’s like full-time therapy for him. They give him the routine he really needs, but also help him grow in diet and routine and self-care,” he said.
His family, he said, was lucky to get a regularly scheduled rest with many other families in the state on the waiting list.
Mansfield Autism Statewide Service Chief Executive Simone Reeves said rest is very important for families and there is a huge demand for quality care in Victoria.
“In order for children with autism to be able to rest, we really need autism-friendly environments and best-practice strategies so that they can relax and have fun.
“Otherwise, you’re just adding trauma and anxiety to them if you don’t really understand what their individual needs are.”
Reeves said many families were unable to reach out to the organization and even get on the waiting list for respite care.
She said that without planned rest, the family may eventually need crisis management.
“I’ve found that knowing that my family is planning vacations, that they can take vacations, really helps my family get through the year,” she said. .
The service is building a game changer for children with autism and their families: a therapeutic care farm outside Mansfield.
It features family-friendly cabins used for rest, a new school campus, and accommodation for term placement students.
break for kids and parents
Today, the service offers up to 860 Respite Nights per year to families statewide. We estimate that when the farm project is complete, we will be able to serve over 4,000.
“I hope there will be no more waiting lists for us … when families really need a break and when they need a break, we can give them .
Nethercrift said the farm would provide a great vacation to support Perry, who loves swimming, jumping on trampolines and being in nature.
“It’s really good for him because it’s so calm, there are no distractions, and there’s a lot of nature around him,” he said.