Did you know? In the past 3 months, our Autism Practitioners (MAPs) have visited 146 families across Victoria.
Our practitioners crisscross across the state to visit families in regional towns such as Warrnambool, Bairnsdale, Swan Hill, Echuca as well as many suburbs across Melbourne. We currently have 19 MAPs who are all registered with the NDIS as Behaviour Support Practitioners. Our practitioners come from a range of backgrounds and experiences within education and allied health services. Our uniqueness comes from living with families and being in the home for the early morning and evening routines when families often need the most support. COVID slowed us down but we are now back on the road, clocking up the kilometres and spending time with our families.
The ‘week of a MAP’ usually starts by loading the bags into our ‘mobile offices’ (aka cars) and hitting the road to our family’s destination across Victoria. The drives for us may consist of podcasts, sing along to tunes or making calls to check in with families, support coordinators, teachers or our friends just to pass the time!
After checking in to our hotels, motels, cabins or family’s spare bedroom, we get to work chatting with parents or carers over a cup of tea and wait until the kids gets home from school. At this point you will often see us looking for the schedule to follow along with, whether it be a whiteboard, PECs chart or written on paper. Each child, family and household is different and even the activities on the schedule from one night to the next can be a complete contrast. We thrive on being flexible and never miss a moment to add a game of UNO or Spot it to the ‘plan’. One night, we may tag along to observe afterschool activities or community access with support workers, before coming home to help a child try a piece of carrot for dinner or brush their teeth more independently using visual charts. The goals of our visit may be practicing social skills, eating programs, toileting, addressing challenging behaviours, establishing sleep patterns or a combination of all… No matter what it is, we arrive prepared to give the family all of our best strategies, or simply a friendly ear to listen to concerns, laugh about stories or talk about who the best football team is!
If we’re needed, we wake early and arrive again the next morning with coffee in hand, ready to master the morning routine using the schedules, time timers or reward charts for getting ready and to school on time. During the day, while the kids are at school and if we have finished our observations in this setting, you might find us exploring the town, writing reports, making phone calls, making visuals and finding resources to use once the kids get home from school again. We eat, sleep, visit homes, write reports, make resources and repeat.
By the end of the week, we MAPs are riding the highs with the wins and the lows with the ‘challenges’ alongside all the mums, dads, grandparents, aunts, siblings and unique individuals on the roller coaster of living with ASD.
We say our goodbyes with a blend of joy for the weekend and nerves for how things will go after we leave – hoping that our strategies will sustain in the hands of the parents, carers, teachers and children, all to be revised on our next visit. And until then, back in our mobile offices we go, singing along to the radio and gearing up to do it all again, but completely different, the next week!