2020 L4Life’s Autism AbiliTEA

Monday, May 11 2020

Amongst all the changes in the world, our annual campaign celebrating Autism Awareness and Appreciation Month was a little different in 2020. While keeping a distance, our Autism AbiliTEA aimed to put a spotlight on Autism, celebrate all of our neurodiverse Village, and bring our community together.

Here is a lovely video that marked World Autism Awareness Day, and the month celebrating Autism Awareness and Apprecation. Elisha (Clinical Supervisor), Shane (L4Life dad), Claire (Clinical Supervisor) and Emma (School Behavioural Support Consultant) share their Autism messages of celebrating uniqueness, appreciating differences, community inclusion and social acceptance.

AbiliTEA Chats

Every week during April, our L4Life Director Mary Muirhead had an AbiliTEA chat with different people and stories of our L4Life Village.

A big thank you to Anna, Addie, Josie, David and Cheryl for their wonderful chats! It was great catching up with you and with what’s happening in your lives.

2020 AbiliTEA chats

Mary had a chat with long-time L4Life supporter, Anna Mylnek-Kalman who runs Music Works Magic. Normally she runs pre-school music classes, dance classes and instrumental classes from her studio, but in times of Covid-19, as with many businesses, had to adjust to the new normal. We love to celebrate abilities of autistic people and special interests. Music is something that all children love, and kids with Autism may have musical talent and especially enjoy the sensory world of music.

For our second AbiliTEA chat, Mary had a lovely conversation with Addie de Nittis. Addie has three wonderful boys who are on the Autism Spectrum (ages 9, 12 and 13) and who is herself on the Autism Spectrum. She talked about the challenges and positives about staying safe at home during the Covid-19 era. With this chat, we remember the saying; if you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.

Mary chatted with one of Melbourne’s pre-eminent cellists, Josephine Vains, whose son Harry participates in early intervention with L4Life. Josie shared a little about Harry’s program, working from home and about an upcoming (at the time of the chat) digital concert Viva!, that she performed in with her friend/colleague, the talented pianist Benjamin Martin. Josie and Benjamin kindly pledged a portion of proceeds from that concert to Fair Access at L4Life to allow other families to get a helping hand. Thank you for your generosity, Josie and Benjamin!

The same time last year, David Favretto, father of Luca who has been a poster boy for L4Life as an Early Intervention graduate, took part in a video made for our 15th Anniversary Crystal Ball and appeared on The Project. Mary had a great chat with David about how Luca is going, what life at home is like for their family and now the kids are being home schooled (Luca is in grade 1, and “the boys”, his twins are in prep). Whilst in lockdown, David and his three boys put together a song, “The Corona Tequila Song”, showcasing their musical and dancing talents. It fits in with our theme for AbiliTEA; abilities and looking at skills people are learning in isolation!

For our fifth AbiliTEA Chat, Mary catches up with Professor Cheryl Dissanayake, who is the Director and Chair of the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) at La Trobe University, based in Victoria but does national work, and was the first Autism research centre in Australia. Amongst other roles, Cheryl is also a Project Leader at the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism (Autism CRC), and the current Vice President and a Fellow of the International Society for Autism Research (INSAR).  Cheryl was a special guest to help open our current Learning For Life Autism Centre in Kew (with the Hon Josh Frydenberg). Mary and Cheryl discussed the current state of Autism Research in COVID-19 times, as well as autism awareness and appreciation.

Virtual AbiliTEAs

In previous years, we asked our Village to gather and hold morning teas/brunch for this special month. So to keep the AbiliTEAs going, we encouraged our supporters to hold their own Virtual AbiliTEA this April; to get together online even if you’re apart, with their family, friends or work colleagues and socialise with a tea/drink.

Thank you to all who took part in our Virtual AbiliTEAs – it is so great and important to keep the conversations of Autism, Autism Awareness and Autism Appreciation going.

2020 L4Life Autism AbiliTEA - Shayna's virtual abilitea 2020 L4Life Autism AbiliTEA - Staff virtual abilitea

Shayna (L4Life Board Member and part of our Marketing and Fundraising Sub-Committee) held a Virtual AbiliTEA with some of her friends.

Some of what they discussed included: the different ways they’ve been inspired by the people in their lives with Autism, the use of labels and when they can be both harmful and helpful (particularly in a work setting), how sometimes having a diagnosis can make people more empathetic and patient to the needs of others, and how the current situation with COVID-19  and isolation might be affecting individuals and families.

Thank you to Shayna and her friends for being part of our AbiliTEA campaign!

Big thank you to our awesome L4Life staff that joined in an evening Virtual AbiliTEA. Thanks to our Chief Happiness Officer, Erin D., for organising.

Some of what they discussed included: how they are going during COVID-19, the benefits and disadvantages for themselves and the kids of conducting online therapy, and the quickly made adjustments of organising and delivering these sessions, and media that features people on the Autism Spectrum and how they are depicted.

Here’s a recommendation that came from some of our therapists and supervisors. ‘The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice from the Silence of Autism” by Naoki Higshida.

2020 L4Life Autism AbiliTEA - board virtual abilitea 2020 L4Life Autism AbiliTEA - Marketing & Events virtual abilitea
Our L4Life Board held a (quick) Virtual AbiliTEA before one of their board meetings. Unfortunately, Amanda was unable to make it and is missing from the photo. Members of our Events team and Marketing/Fundraising team held a quick Virtual AbiliTEA before a meeting.


Abilities from a Distance

This was a ‘fun challenge’ for our L4Life Village to get involved in throughout April. We may have been separated, but we wanted a way to keep the Village connected and share what we were learning and our abilities with one other.

2020 L4Life Autism AbiliTEA - abilitiess from a distance


Sue, long time L4Life Village’r and our Events Assistant, shared not one, but two, AbiliTEAs from a Distance (far left and middle left). “I’ve developed ability in the area of sourdough baking, and so many people are now doing it in iso! For the record here is this weekend’s effort! A new friend and I have set up a cryptic crossword teaching program, after getting in contact in the Facebook group Chat10Looks3. Together (but mainly through her hard work) we developed a two week program, posting a type of clue and example then another clue to solve each day. It was really popular and even rated a mention in this month’s newsletter. Sadly, I’m still pretty bad at Cryptic Crosswords, but there is definitely an improvement.” Well done Sue!

This is a beautiful AbiliTEA from a Distance from Edmund, one of our L4Life kids (centre). You may recognise Edmund as our 2019 AbiliTEA poster boy, and he also featured on the cover of our 2018-2019 AR. His mum Tammie says: “I teach the piano using ABA techniques that I’ve learnt over the last few years from our L4Life program supervisor. I would love to encourage more of the ABA kids to take up piano lessons, based on how Edmund and other special needs children I teach have taken to it. It’s a wonderful extra curricular activity, relaxing and fun, and has also made a positive contribution to their development too”. Click here to watch a lovely video of Edmund playing the piano. We hope Edmund continues enjoying his piano playing and lessons. Well done to Edmund and Tammie!

Here’s an AbiliTEA from a Distance from Natalia, part of our L4Life Village and Marketing and Fundraising committee (top right). Natalia says: “I’ve tried for many years to become even a little fluent in Italian, but just could not find the time to; everything else came first. Now I have more time at home and decided to dedicate at least half an hour a day to developing my second-language skills. I’ve found a new love for learning Italian, and I know I will be making the time to keep up my daily half-hour Italian, even after all this isolation!”. Click here to watch the video. Molto bene Natalia!