PlayConnect is an invaluable program of playgroup facilitated by a development worker. PlayConnect is for families with young children who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or who present with ASD-like characteristics.

PlayConnect playgroups provide a safe, supportive and friendly environment for these young children to experience rewarding play activities and to learn through play. Parents also benefit from shared experiences and access to helpful resources.

PlayConnect playgroups are located throughout Australia.

Find out more about joining on 1800 790 335 or visit your state service provider below:

What happens at PlayConnect?

PlayConnect playgroups usually meet weekly during school terms for about two hours. During playgroup sessions, parents, carers and children participate in a variety of play activities and experiences specifically structured to the needs of children with ASD.

Some areas of developmental need in children with ASD include:

Messy play

  • communication
  • sensory processing
  • play skill development.

Some of the strategies used at PlayConnect include:

  • structuring the environment and routine
  • supporting communication
  • following the child’s lead
  • breaking down tasks
  • modelling
  • positive encouragement.

Who helps at PlayConnect?

A PlayConnect playgroup development worker supports the playgroup for between six and 24 months. During and after this time, the participating families may elect to join another community playgroup, early intervention program or early education service.

Each week parents get involved in the sessions through:

  • setting up the play environment
  • being involved in play activities
  • suggesting ideas for activities
  • tidying up
  • talking and sharing ideas with other parents.

Support for families

PlayConnect offers a regular meeting and learning place for parents and families.

Many parents of children with special needs find it valuable to learn from other parents’ experiences.

PlayConnect offers families the opportunity to:

  • connect with resources in the local area and through the Helping Children with Autism package
  • gain support from other parents
  • provide rewarding play experiences for their child
  • support other parents
  • be part of their wider community
  • develop leadership and organisational skills.

PlayConnect is NOT a specialist therapeutic provider. However, PlayConnect development workers can provide families with valuable information about specialist services for children with ASD in the local area.

Guests from other organisations occasionally attend sessions to provide information on other services.

Strengths of PlayConnect

Play in a social environment can be challenging for children with ASD, due to their difficulties with communication, managing change and understanding others.

PlayConnect playgroups provide families with the opportunity to learn through play in an environment that recognises and caters for the particular developmental needs of children with ASD in a safe, supportive and friendly environment.

PlayConnect also brings parents and families together in an environment of mutual understanding.

An independent evaluation undertaken by La Trobe University in 2014 found a high degree of parent satisfaction with PlayConnect.

“My son gets so much out of it with learning routines, interacting with other kids his age with ASD (he now walks straight up to other kids and says hello), participating in mat time, snack time, pack up, etc. I am learning so much from this group. It has completely changed my whole outlook to the future and my son’s diagnosis.”

PlayConnect playgroups are supported through Australian Government funding under the Helping Children with Autism programme.