Written by Beck Keysers, Orange
As featured in The Country Web 2016 Annual
I am a mother to two wonderful boys aged three and six years old. My eldest has autism.
Autism or autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how a person relates to his or her environment and interacts with others. People with autism can find it difficult to communicate, socialise and learn new things. They may also have unusual and repetitive behaviours and interests, such as avoiding loud noises, sniffing objects or touching certain textures.
About one in 100 people have autism—almost 230 000 Australians—and it affects almost four times as many boys as girls.
Like many Australian mums, I never thought autism would be a part of my life.
After a career working in special schools and as a disability support worker, when we found out I was pregnant my partner and I decided to move to Orange, his home town, to be near family. I had a few problems throughout my pregnancy and finally after an emergency C-section, Kaiser was born. He was perfect—healthy and happy—and my new role as a mother was by far the best.
As a baby, Kaiser was very easy to please, always laughing and he never complained about anything. He reached all his milestones on time and as far as I was concerned his development was spot on. At two years of age he experienced his first day at family day care.
I received a phone call after that day to come in for a chat. That chat turned out to be a suggestion that my beautiful, happy son could possibly have autism. They gave me a number to call to make an appointment with the local early intervention service.
After an intense assessment period Kaiser was formally diagnosed with Autism and severe language delay at age three. I wasn’t overly concerned and thought I would just need to get him some speech therapy. Little did I know that I would need ongoing assistance to ensure his needs could be met. This included speech therapy, occupational therapy, early intervention, a preschool that could assist him in a mainstream environment and learning to provide him with coping skills to deal with anxious situations. I found the experience really challenging and confusing.
Kaiser’s brother Xavier was born during this process, which made things incredibly hard. It wasn’t easy to help him with a newborn to also look after. However, Xavier has helped him in many ways in terms of communication and social interaction.
Watching them grow together has been very encouraging and it has inspired me to offer a resource for families to access services and information relating to autism.
Since Kaiser’s diagnosis I have met other parents like myself who are unsure of where to go when their child is autistic or is undergoing an autism diagnosis.
Some services don’t advertise on the internet and others have huge waiting lists, while some just don’t fit my sons needs.
Developing a relationship with the educator or therapist you choose is first and foremost. Your child has to enjoy attending sessions and feel safe and happy while doing so.
I came up with the idea for the Autism Link app to help families find local support services, relevant information, resources and much more.
Early intervention is crucial to ensure that kids get the support they need. The Autism Link app will hopefully give families choices to explore other options, especially if what they’re using is not working for their child and family.
Becoming a business woman almost overnight has presented me with a number of challenges. I’m now preparing the business case and technical requirements for the app, finding funding to pay for the development and transforming myself from a stay-at-home mum to the founder of an app start up.
I’m working with Bathurst-based mobile app company Appiwork, who have believed in me and the difference I’m trying to make for families from the very beginning. It really does help to surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed when making an important transition in your life!
The Autism Link app will be free for families to use and the funding for the project is based on service providers paying to promote their services. I really hope to create a wonderful resource for families just like my own.
At the end of the day, I am still a mum who just wants to offer the right information to families. Because we all want the best for our children. We don’t need to be afraid of autism, we need to embrace it and help children to live happy, connected lives.
To contact Rebecca email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Related sites: Autism Link