Sunshine Coast hosts prominent Autism expert

More than 240 Sunshine Coast parents, carers and educators filled the room to listen to world-renowned clinical psychologist Professor Tony Attwood in a one-day event organised by STEPS Autism Treehouse.

For Professor Attwood, it was also a great chance to visit the Sunshine Coast, where he once called home.

“I’ve seen it change over the years, but I’ve always enjoyed that the Sunshine Coast seems to create a friendly atmosphere. You get nice people here,” he said.

The workshop covered important topics including building friendships and adolescent issues for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as well as strategies for managing challenging behaviour.

Professor Attwood, who will soon be heading to Europe to speak in a number of cities, said parents and carers play an important role in helping children with ASD to learn their own methods of reading social cues.

“Otherwise they’re going to have to learn by trial and error, which is sometimes not the best way to learn social understanding,” he said.

“We’re very much a social society and there is an expectation of social inclusion and integration.

“But for those with ASD it’s not easy, and they have to learn what was never taught to other kids.

“There aren’t lessons in how to make friends, read facial expressions and body language.

“Autism is being different, not defective. My best advice is to watch, listen, learn and don’t make assumptions,” he said.

Event attendee Rachael Anderson, a schools-based occupational therapist, said she’ll be sharing what she learnt from the workshop with her students and colleagues in Maryborough.

“Tony provided great information about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ people with ASD may perceive, experience and respond to social situations.

“I’m excited to see the difference some of the ideas can make for my students’ participation and happiness in their school day,” she said.

STEPS Autism Treehouse runs educational workshops for both parents and children, hosts social meet ups and other initiatives to support Sunshine Coast families with a loved one with Autism.

To find out more about upcoming events, or to donate, visit www.stepsautismtreehouse.org.au.

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