AEIOU officially opens in Canberra, first early-intervention autism centre
The Sector > Provider > General News > AEIOU officially opens in Canberra, first early-intervention autism centre

AEIOU officially opens in Canberra, first early-intervention autism centre

by Freya Lucas

August 26, 2022

The Canberra suburb of Garran is now home to the capital’s first early-intervention autism centre which brings together occupational therapists, behaviour analysts, speech pathologists, early childhood teachers and highly trained early intervention specialists to form a team around each of the 40 children enrolled. 


The space was opened by Governor-General David Hurley who said the facility will be life-changing for local families. Health charity the John James Foundation funded the almost $5 million building while the land was gifted by the ACT government, and his wife Linda, a retired teacher, wrote a song for the occasion. 


While the opening had been delayed by 12 months due to COVID shutdowns and the federal election the facility is now finally officially open and, in the words of Mr Hurley, reflecting the “real richness of spirit that exists in the community here in Canberra.”


“What a gift for children with autism, to unlock their potential, to watch them develop and to go on and make their own way in the world,” he said. 


Boasting three classrooms, with a fourth due to open later this year, the space has an emphasis on genuine partnerships, AEIOU chair Susan Rix said. 


“Families are supported with opportunities to develop new skills, too. Most importantly, AEIOU is fun. It is inclusive, playful, and respectful for learners and their families.”


AEIOU patron associate professor James Morton and his wife Louise established the AEIOU Foundation in a church hall in Queensland in 2005. There are now 11 AEIOU centres around Australia, the latest being the purpose-built facility in Canberra.


“We’ve come so far. This facility is beautiful. It’s probably the most stunning, complete facility I’ve seen over all the years of being involved in [AEIOU],” Associate Professor Morton said. 


“Just to think where we were in 2005 in a rickety, rackety church hall to a facility like this. It’s an amazing facility for generations of young children with classic autism in the ACT and their families.”


For the Morton’s this is an important mission, with son Andy diagnosed almost 20 years ago.


“Today our almost 23-year-old boy Andy moves into independent living with a boy that he’s known since special school in grade 10. And it’s a step in life he’s very ready for,” Associate Professor Morton said.


“And it’s amazing for us as parents to see where he’s come from as a three-year-old diagnosed with autistic to the happy 23-year-old living his very best life.”


To read local coverage of this story please see here

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