COVID-19 vaccination help available

With three autistic teenagers, Natasha knew there had to be a better way for them to get the COVID-19 vaccination than going to a mass vaccination hub.

Natasha knew the vaccination hubs were not going to be suitable for her children so she enlisted the help of a Disability Liaison Officer (DLO) for her teens. Natasha is a single mother whose three non-speaking autistic children are aged 13, 17 and 19.

“Once I knew the vaccine was going to be made available to my kids’ age group, I wanted to get them vaccinated to protect them,” she says.

“I knew I couldn’t go into a hub at a hospital and wait two hours with three autistic kids. I thought, surely there is an easier way for us.”

Natasha made contact with a DLO who spoke to her about each of her children and their individual needs.

“I told the DLO that they don’t like needles – basically, it’s difficult to get anything medical like that done,” she explains.

“I was able to tell them what my kids are like and they listened to me about each of the kids’ individual personalities. The DLO told me there was a disability hub for families like us, and within a week it all came together.”

Natasha says her children were booked into the hub for vaccination appointments at three separate times.

“My 17-year-old daughter was first. I took her to the hub and it wasn’t anything like a hospital. It was just my daughter and I in the room and the nurse was so gentle and so discrete they managed to give her the vaccine while I distracted her with her favourite TV show and toy. I couldn’t believe it went so well.

“The next week I took my older boy and a week after that I took my youngest son who is 13.  Each experience was individual, but each time it was gentle and positive, and I was just floored that it had all come together so easily.

“As a single parent, it’s up to me to advocate for my kids and get them what they need. I tried to do all this on my own but it’s so wonderful that when I did reach out, the help was there.”

New research among the autism community has highlighted just how stressful the vaccination process can be and as a result, Amaze has developed a series of resources to help autistic people, their families and supporters.

The survey revealed the barriers to vaccination for autistic people included overwhelming anxiety about attending a mass vaccination centre, lack of privacy at those centres, and needle phobia. In fact, more than 44 per cent of the community cited needle phobia as their main barrier to vaccination.

The Amaze resources include social scripts for different vaccination locations, and information on the types of accommodations autistic people can ask for when getting vaccinated. There is also information for people with needle phobia with all these resources available on the Coronavirus Amaze Community Information Hub.

Across Australia there are many disability service providers who can assist with the vaccination process, such as the Disability Gateway program, which can help with all aspects of the vaccination process, including making a vaccination appointment.

Disability vaccination hubs have also been set up around the country to offer enhanced access for people with disability, making the process more accessible to everyone in the community.

For Victorian residents, additional support is available through the Government’s Disability Liaison Officers (DLO) program. To enlist the help of a Disability Liaison Officer, email [email protected] or visit the Victorian Government website.

For more advice and support, contact an autism advisor by calling the Amaze Autism Connect national helpline on 1300 308 699.

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