SASI started out in December 1966 and was known as the Victorian Autistic Children’s Association. The program operated from a church hall in Cheltenham, providing specialised education for six children with autism.
Other services for people with autism quickly developed. By the end of the decade, three of these services merged.
- The Victorian Autistic Children’s and Adult’s Association (Now known as AMAZE)
- Mansfield Play School
- Irabina – Eastern Centre
This prompted a name change to:
The Victorian Autistic Children’s Association – Southern Centre.
In the early 1970s the Southern Centre purchased land and constructed the first purpose-built school for autistic and disabled children. Based in Mentone, the school become known as Mentone Autistic School. The school is now called the Southern Autistic School and is based in Bentleigh, Victoria.
The Committee of Management felt the need to expand education services to further meet the needs children and their families. A social welfare officer was employed to provide family support and counseling.
Management purchased a residential house in Mentone to provide daily living programs for the school’s students. Swonnell House is still in operation and provides respite care for autistic children year round. This now newly renovated house remains the only autism-specific respite service in Victoria.
Management employed a ‘Cottage Parent’ at Swonnell House. Students attending the school received weekend and school holiday respite. By 1989, clients received the option of full-time respite. In time, a newly employed recreation officer began running programs on weekends and in school holidays. Those recreation programs now continue to run and are offered to families living in the Southern Metropolitan Region.
The Victorian State Government took responsibility for providing education to all children in Victoria in the mid-1980s. As a result, the Committee of Management sold the school facility to the Education Department in 1986.
At that time the organisation’s name was changed to Southern Autistic Services Inc.
SASI established six full-time community residential units within the Southern Metropolitan Region. These provided ongoing care and accommodation for up to five young adults with autism and disabilities.
SASI services were also set up as follows:
- Adult Education
- Training Support Services: Beachlynn (1997) – now located in Seaford
- Sale – SELF
- Morwell – Alfred Murfey Centre
- Croydon (Eastlynn) – Adult Day Services
In 1999, the organisation changed its name to Statewide Autistic Services Inc (SASI). The name change reflects the regional location of services in the southern and eastern metropolitan regions of Melbourne and Gippsland. However, SASI does offer respite and community education to people in many other regions.
2000 – Present
In 2013, SASI’s Board decided the regional site in Sale was no longer viable. SASI closed the site and successfully transitioned clients to another local disability provider in April 2013.
The Morwell day services facility which SASI has operated for 15 years was closed in 2014 as a result of ash fumes from the Hazelwood coal fire. In June 2016. After operating from a variety of temporary sites, a new 3.7ha property was opened at Newborough, offering clients a wide range of activities and leisure options.
In 2015 SASI relocated it’s Head Office from Seaford to Frankston to enable greater visibility within the community.
In 2016 SASI renamed it’s Day Services to ‘Active Choices’ to reflect the flexible individualised nature of these services.