Autism peak body Amaze has launched Autism Connect: Australia’s first national autism helpline. The launch marks a change and expansion of the existing Victorian Autism Advisor service by the organisation.
In addition to Victoria, the information helpline is available in the ACT and Tasmania through partnerships with Marymead Autism Centre and Autism Tasmania respectively. Autism Connect is rolling out across Australia and will be available in all states by mid 2021.
Autism Connect is a free telephone helpline, email and webchat service, developed by Amaze and funded by the NDIS. It provides information, advice, and service referrals to support autistic people and their support networks.
For previous users of Amaze’s Autism Advisor service that has been running for 12 years in Victoria, Autism Connect is the same successful information helpline. It has supported more than 20,000 parents of autistic children access information and advice as well as thousands of members of the autism community.
In the ACT and Tasmania, those contacting Autism Connect will be connected to local advisors based in their state who will provide local knowledge and connections as well as access to the Autism Connect knowledge bank – the most comprehensive repository of autism information and resources created and sourced from Australia and globally.
Amaze CEO Fiona Sharkie said a key benefit of Autism Connect is its independence and credibility; all information provided is derived from research and the service never promotes a particular service or therapy but provides options from which people make their own decisions to suit their needs.
“Autism presents differently in every person and there are many ‘snake oil peddlers’ who promise cures and sell unproven treatments that can be emotionally and financially harmful.
“Autism Connect will make a really positive difference to the lives of autistic people in Victoria and across Australia in addition to their support networks. It connects them to a deep resource of information and advice on all things autism for all ages,” Ms Sharkie said.
From mid 2021, Autism Connect will also provide a body of resources online, including on-the-ground local information. For post-diagnosis information, Amaze has partnered with Autism Awareness Australia to develop a new online resource Autism: What Next? to support autistic children and adults in their first year after diagnosis.
To date, Amaze has successfully operated the autism information advisor service with many Victorian success stories. Evaluation of the service was positive, with 95% of contacts expressing advisors listened and understood their needs.
After just a single contact, 83% said they felt more positive about the issue they were seeking support around. Today, with Autism Connect, the service aims to help more people around Australia.
“I got diagnosed at age 40 and I found that really enlightening and validating. You’ve got the ability to send a 5-second message and then get a human response. They were friendly, patient and empathetic. They were really just nice to deal with on the phone and it felt like the easiest thing ever,” said Catherine, an autistic mother of 2 autistic boys.
Operating from Monday to Friday, 8am – 7pm, Autism Connect can be contacted through these channels: