ACT for Autism was previously known as the Regional Autism Intervention Network (RAIN)
Regional autism intervention network (rain)
RAIN was created in the Bunbury region of Western Australia in 2015 by Gemma Foxall and Elizabeth Martin, and originally operated to unify voices of families caring for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. RAIN successfully campaigned for funding increases and improvements in service access for children under 8 years old in the Upper South West region. In 2016 RAIN acquired an Australian Business Number (ABN) and began supporting families through advocacy work and a support group. Schools, service providers and daycare providers accessed a range of workshops and professional learning opportunities - testimonials from participants are included on the Act for Autism website. In 2018, with news of Western Australians joining the federal National Disability Insurance Scheme, RAIN was re-branded as ACT for Autism and looks forward to supporting the Autism Community into the future.
Gemma Foxall, MEd, P.G.C.E, B.A. (Hons).
Director, ACT for Autism
Gemma is a primary school teacher, originally trained in the UK and specialised in Early Childhood. She mostly taught in Norwich before emigrating to Australia in 2006 and worked in private and public primary and secondary schools, before accepting a permanent teaching position in the Bunbury region. In 2008 she was nominated for Australian Teacher of the Year and in 2009 she gained Level Three Classroom Teacher Status.
Gemma continued to teach full time whilst working as a consultant for an education publisher, writing literacy software and lesson plans and volunteering as a research assistant for the local university. She was awarded an academic scholarship to complete a Master of Education by Research which was published in 2014, investigating principals' perceptions of a pre-service teacher education model.
However, professional experience was not sufficient to support Gemma to navigate the disability and pre-school education sector, when her second child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, requiring the highest level of supports. Fifteen years of teaching experience had not equipped Gemma with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach her son, and so she commenced intensive training in supporting children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Gemma is in the final year of her PhD - a practice-based research project investigating what mainstream teachers need to know to effectively meet the needs of students with ASD in the classroom. She is still in intensive training (we never stop learning!) and is passionate about supporting fellow educators to understand how to teach, communicate with, and maximise social inclusion for all students with ASD.
Gemma is a prize-winning public speaker and enjoys designing tailor-made professional development workshops to meet the needs of each organisation's context. She believes in the need for proactive collaboration, and liaises with a range of individuals and service providers to create and co-present engaging and unique learning experiences for parents and professionals. She draws on the lived experience of parenting two children with very different presentations of ASD and combines this with her experiences as a researcher, therapist, and teacher.
Gemma is grateful to her beautiful children, who inspire her every day to embrace joyful moments, to maintain high expectations and to accept and learn about different ways of thinking and perceiving the world.