Awareness the key to autism

first_imgOld ladies have threatened to smack her children. Drunk teenagers have told them to “shut-up” and security guards have suspected her as a kidnapper of her screaming son.Far from the latter, Maria Ager is the mother of two autistic children and believes that the community need to increase their awareness of the growing condition.“The public think they’re naughty but that’s not right,” she says. “Autistic children look normal but once you get to know them you see that there’s something wrong. That is why they need to know the signs.” Her sons, Chris, 7, and Phillip, 8, are two of 130,000 Australians with autism; a lifelong developmental disability which affects the way a person communicates and relates to other people and the world around them.Signs in children include non verbal or delayed speech, lack of empathy, reduced emotion, poor eye contact, limited development of play activities, lack of socialising, repetitive behaviours and restrictive interests. Ms Ager says she was shocked to learn that she had two autistic children, as there was no history of the condition in her family.“My oldest son burnt himself when he was a baby and went through a lot of hospitalisation so it was hard,” she said.“With my second son Chris, I knew all the symptoms straight away… all the spinning, no socialising, and no eye contact.” Whilst Phillip can read, write, and complete basic tasks by himself, Chris has low functioning autism, which requires constant supervision.He is two years behind in mentality for his age and is not toilet trained.“His behaviour is very hard… if you say no to him he goes ballistic screaming and this can go on for a week because of his fixation on things,” Ms Agar explains.“Phillip is ok but he is very repetitive with language, and doesn’t know when to stop socialising which can get pretty annoying with the kids at school.”Ms Ager says the key to dealing with autism is patience- something that she had to work at in her transition from a busy full-time worker to a stay at home mum.“You have to compromise, use a lot of visual cards, and try not to give in to everything, which will only reward their behaviour,” she says.April 2010 is Autism Month, commencing with World Autism Day on Friday April 2 and ending with Autism hour at 9am on April 30. “Autism awareness is very important in our community- to educate and teach people the struggles of the families,” says Despina Havelas, president Brimbank Autism support network, Autism Angels.“That it is ongoing, but with community support, it absolutely makes a difference to these families.. that they do not have to deal with the frustrations alone.” Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more