I wear multiple hats around Interchange Outer East (IOE). I’m a recreation coordinator, working mainly in the GAP Programs (Group After-Hours Programs), mum of a junior support worker, mum of a participant and Mumma Fish; general supporter of many!

When the government announced the COVID-19 lockdown, like most of us, I was really worried how we would cope. Two parents attempting to work from home, a student doing year 12 and a student who needed pretty much full support in his special ed remote schooling. My son Lachie has a primary diagnosis of autism and has a variety of other diagnoses kicking around.

As we began to try and find a new normal, online recreation programs began to pop up at IOE. I initially dismissed them as I didn’t think Lachie would engage online and it all just seemed too difficult. As time progressed, we were struggling to fill his day and a few options appeared that I thought he might enjoy; specifically sensory play and Online Lego Club. I took a big deep breath and decided to give it a go. After all, what could go wrong?

With the support of some exceptional support workers, making this decision has opened a whole new world for Lachie. He engages fully during his time on the sessions. He has made new friends who he talks about often and he has been so excited to see some of his old friends and support workers. Lachie has a significant speech delay and so finds verbal communication difficult. Thankfully, this has not prevented him participating in these groups.

I am biased; I work for IOE and I am part of the Recreation Services Team who have put these programs together. That being said, I have been so thrilled to see the difference these programs are making in our family’s life. I think IOE has done a great job with Specialist Services and the Recreation Services Teams in delivering great programs while working around tight restrictions.

My encouragement to families is to perhaps give online recreation a go. There continues to be opportunities to try. If you are concerned about it, please talk to a member of the Recreation Services Team. We’d love to work with you to find a solution to support your loved one to participate positively.

If you’d asked me at the start of lockdown if this would have happened for us I would have given you a firm no – but I’m so grateful we gave it a go!

By Fiona Fisher, IOE parent and Recreation Services Team member