Grace Fava: Westfield Local Heroes 2018
Love for her sons inspires Grace to help thousands of others
Grace Fava’s two sons are doing very well in high school. But she still becomes emotional when she speaks about her initial struggle to find support for their autism spectrum disorder.
“I thought that if I’m having this much difficulty and frustration, imagine those who don’t have English as their first language, who don’t have the amount of education that I did,” she says.
So, Grace gathered up seven like-minded parents and around her kitchen table they hatched a plan for a modest information service.
That was 2007. Since then Autism Advisory and Support Service has moved out of Grace’s spare room into a purpose-designed cottage in Liverpool, NSW. It is NDIS-accredited and has 25 employees and volunteers.
About 500 people from across Australia and overseas contact the service each month by email, in person or by contacting its 24 -hour Autism hotline – the only one in the southern hemisphere. There is also a steady stream of requests for help and referrals from community organisations, health services, doctors, schools and politicians.
“We have helped thousands of people over the years,” says Grace, who is CEO of the non-profit organisation.
“I’m proud to say that almost 12 years later we also offer allied health interventions, professional development and network families with the support they need. It’s all about the best possible outcomes for children and adults on the spectrum.
“We take a step back and say let’s bring in the correct support and make sure we have the right outcome. We try to get an overall view instead of focusing on one issue,” she says.
“We have the lived experience that other organisations don’t have.”
Grace says it is “very exciting” and an honour to be voted a Westfield Local Hero. “I am honoured because what I do is out of love, first of all for my children, but that goes out to other children and families in need.
The service will use its $10,000 Westfield Local Heroes grant to provide subsidised therapy services to people with autism who do not attract funding through the NDIS or are on a waiting list for funding. This will include speech, occupational, behaviour and music therapy as well as psychology, physiotherapy and social skills groups.
For further information on the Westfield Local Heroes program, click here.