April is World Autism Month, a time to celebrate and raise awareness about autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This year’s theme is “Together we stand for a world of difference,” emphasising the importance of unity and inclusivity. To learn more about the impact of ASD on families and the support services available, we interviewed Melissa and her son, Archer.
Archer is a 10-year-old boy who attends Barwon Valley School and has a diagnosis of autism and ADHD. Despite being medicated three times a day, Archer is an active and curious child who enjoys playing Roblox, watching Mickey Mouse, and feeding animals including calves, chickens, horses, and cats at Fearless Farmhouse in Bellbrae. He wants to be treated like everyone else and participate in activities such as bowling and playing with kids at the park.
Melissa, Archer’s mother, describes the past ten years as “long and hard.” She realised something was not quite right with Archer when he was only 12 months old due to his poor sleeping patterns and lack of verbal communication. After an initial battle to get him diagnosed, Archer began receiving support through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2017. Melissa credits Early Intervention and ongoing support from various organisations for helping Archer achieve his current level of independence.
Melissa emphasises the importance of a supportive community in raising a child with ASD. She cites the various organisations and individuals who have played a role in Archer’s life, from A&G Support Services and Daisy Chain Support Service to Fearless Farmhouse and Access Your Supports. Melissa credits Archer’s Support Coordinator, Michelle, for being “always there for extra help” and the Access Your Supports Plan Management team for taking care of bills.
Melissa hopes to promote awareness about ASD and emphasise that “there’s nothing wrong with people with autism.” When she first received Archer’s diagnosis, Melissa struggled with the idea and asked, “Why us, why Archer?” and it would impact her mental health. However, she now sees Archer’s autism as a gift and cherishes the moments when the simplest things make him happy.
As we celebrate World Autism Month, it’s essential to recognise the importance of inclusivity and support for individuals with ASD and their families. Archer’s story illustrates the impact that early intervention and ongoing support can have on a child’s life. Melissa’s emphasis on the importance of community and the NDIS’s investment in individuals with disabilities serves as a reminder that we can make a world of difference when we stand together.
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