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CEO COVID-19 Update to clients and community

Dec 3 2020 3:12 PM

Dear Autism SA community

I will begin by wishing all those who observe it a happy “International Day of People with Disability” (IDPwD) and I hope that, however you are choosing to acknowledge it in 2020, this day brings much meaning and recognition for us all.

I am also writing today to provide you with the latest updates from Autism SA. All of us in South Australia are experiencing another week with changes to the ways in which we interact with each other when going out, working, schooling etc.

I want to reassure you that Autism SA is monitoring and acting upon new advice and directives 24/7 to ensure we’re receiving and acting upon the latest information and implementing the most effective health and safety processes so that we continue to protect our, clients, families, workforce and the wider community.

We are relying on primary information sources for the following guidelines and directives from the State Government, being: Department of the Premier and Cabinet, SA Health and SA Police. These are the agencies tasked with keeping South Australians informed and safe and you can access their latest responses here.

Autism SA is seeking clarification when these directives are not as clear as we require, to ensure we are acting in the best interests of our community. We will update you in these situations if the information changes from what we have advised you in an update, so you may receive multiple communications from us in quick succession.

In addition, we are monitoring information from many other sources, such as: the Federal Government, Department for Human Services, Department for Education, National Disability Services, other providers (in SA and interstate), suppliers, media and our clients, families and community.

In today’s update, I am providing you with new information on the following topics:

• Wearing of masks when interacting (in person) with Autism SA
• Signing-in when visiting someone at an Autism SA site
• COVIDSAfe Plans
• Maintaining physical (social) distancing
• NDIA support during the COVID-19 situation
• State Government support during the COVID-19 situation
• I welcome your questions, queries, suggestions & feedback

Also attached are three easy to use documents, created by Autism SA, that you may find helpful that are referred in the detail below:
1. Face Masks: decision making for clients and visitors
2. Visual Narrative, Parents and Carers entering sites; and
3. Recently updated visual story “A Story About Coronavirus in South Australia”.



While it is not mandatory elsewhere when out in the community, SA Health has directed all disability and health providers to ensure that everyone wears masks at all times when they are in the physical presence of others. Until further clarification is provided, physical presence is defined as “where social distancing of 1.5m cannot be maintained at all times”

There are some exceptions to this rule which are outlined below. If you do not meet the exception criteria, until further notice, people visiting or working with Autism SA will need to wear a mask. SA Health’s guidelines covering the types of masks to wear is available via this link and I recommend you keep checking back on their information because it has been changing frequently. Our staff will be wearing them too, in accordance with the direction, unless an exception applies to that individual.

In summary, if you visit us at any of our sites, you will be asked to wear a compliant mask unless the following apply:

• The person has a disability
• The person is under 12 years old
• The person is unable to wear one because of a medical condition or a health condition which would be affected by the wearing of a mask
• It interferes with the care or support we will be providing
• It makes it hard for you to communicate with us
• You are not entering our site (e.g. dropping off/picking up/remaining in your car in the carpark etc)
• You live in an Autism SA house
• You are on someone else’s property and they have different rules.

I have attached an easy reference flowchart designed to help determine when to wear a mask when visiting an Autism SA site. If you have any queries about this, please do not hesitate to send them to me via email.

I have also attached as prepared by Autism SA:
• a Visual Narrative, to support individuals’ understanding about why many of us are wearing masks; and
• a recently updated visual story to provide support when talking about the coronavirus to your gorgeous individual on the spectrum and the family

SA Health has provided instructions on how to put on and take off masks, as follows:

If you do not have a mask with you, you are welcome to request one from one of Autism SA’s team when you visit.

It is Autism SA’s usual practice to collect details about the people who visit our sites so that we can know who is on site at all times. We do this by asking people to handwrite their details on a sign-in page and/or to complete the online forms or to work with our Reception Team to pass on details.

In 2020 we have added “Health Check” questions to this process to ensure that the people who visit us are following state government advice and are well, so we are keeping our community safe.

To assist with contact tracing and save time when visiting places, the State Government has now released a new tool called the COVID Safe Check-In. A new feature that has been added to the free mySA GOV app. You can download the mySA GOV app using your smart phone and follow the instructions here.

This is being implemented across South Australia this week, including at Autism SA’s sites. If you have the mySA GOV app, select the COVID SAfe Check-In tile when you arrive at an Autism SA site, and follow the prompts to scan the location’s unique QR code and check in. If you do not have the app, please sign-in the way you are used to.

I have attached easy reference visuals that capture the process when visiting an Autism SA site. We hope you find this helpful.

This week, all disability support providers have been required to submit COVIDSafe plans outlining the ways in which they undertake to keep people safe when at their locations. Autism SA has already completed this process. You will find these plans clearly displayed if you visit any of our sites. Please take the time to read through them when at our site and let me know if you have any further questions or suggestions by emailing:

There is great concern at the State Government level that South Australians are becoming complacent around COVIDSafe behaviours such as sanitising, hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing, so more restrictions are being announced, especially with respect to the health and disability sector.

The latest restrictions have meant more changes at Autism SA, such as:

• Most of our staff are working from home again, where they can
• Many of our services, meetings and supports are being delivered online
• Parents/carers/accompanying people must retain social distancing rules when in the physical presence of others.
• No more “drop ins”, without a confirmed appointment, to an Autism SA site.

You must remain on the Autism SA property when responsible for an individual receiving services and support at Autism SA. On “Autism SA property” includes the carpark.

We now ask everyone who is not actually involved in a therapy or group session at an Autism SA site, to remain close by in their vehicle (if in an Autism SA carpark) or to ensure they are socially distanced from others while they are waiting on their person/appointment.

If you have any queries about this, please do not hesitate to send them to me via email or speak to the person your individual is receiving services from.

Coping with the situation created by the COVID-19 situation is stressful and it can become costly, particularly if you need personal protective equipment, and the NDIA is aware of this. The Agency has made some accommodations for participants and they can be found here or you can call them:

We encourage all NDIS participants to continue to check on these supports and keep in touch with their Local Area Coordinators, support coordinators and Plan Managers so that you receive the most current and useful information that supports you at this time.

The stress of 2020 is taking its toll on many and this may be particularly difficult for people living with autism, for many reasons. As autistic individuals, family members and carers we have done an amazing job coping with the changes, uncertainties, fears, conflicting information and all the other challenges that have been thrust upon us this year. I congratulate you all and, remind you to be mindful of the impacts it may be having on your own physical and mental health.

If you are concerned for your wellbeing (or that of others), you’re not alone and our state government has established and expanded resources to support the public, particularly in the areas of mental health supports.

If you have concerns, please contact SA Health’s dedicated support lines, below:

If you have any queries about your service or any of the information I’ve shared today, please do not hesitate to talk to your Autism SA staff member or contact us in any of the following ways:

PHONE 1300 288 476
This line operates Monday to Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm.

You can also email us:
- for general enquiries
- to speak to one of our My Pathways team members.

The queries and feedback you provide does reach me and I read each one I receive, using the information you provide to make changes for the benefit of our clients, workforce and wider community.

Thank you for reading this far! I apologise for the lengthy correspondence today but there is a lot going on and we want to ensure that you are in possession of the most current information available.

Until my next update, I wish you the best and remember the great job you are doing today and every day. We are in this together. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

With kind regards,

Jenny Karavolos
CEO Autism SA


View attachments here:

A story about Coronavirus in SA

Face mask decision making for clients and visitors

Visual Narrative for entering ASA sites

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