Curtin University study helps Canning Vale teen with autism develop confidence and social skills

Christopher and Cindy van der Walt at Curtin University.
Christopher and Cindy van der Walt at Curtin University.

NOT so long ago, Cindy van der Walt was at a loss as to how to help her son Christopher.

The Canning Vale resident’s son has autism and despite her best efforts, he was anti-social and often uninterested in leaving the house.

Ms van der Walt said she had tried everything to help Christopher, but nothing seemed to work.

“Because Chris was a difficult child, I didn’t know what to do, I prayed for someone to help,” she said.

“He was very aggressive, he couldn’t stand my youngest son, he always hurting him, fighting him and he had massive meltdowns.”

Help arrived in the form of a Curtin University study, which examined features which should be included in employment programs to deliver effective outcomes for young people living with autism.

Since Christopher participated in the study, which helped young individuals on the spectrum develop skills in software testing, Ms van der Walt said he had changed completely.

“He never had any confidence and now he’s standing up in front of people and giving presentations,” she said.

“Chris never had really good social skills, now he’s going out when he never used to.

“He went to Supernova last year, with this program he had the confidence to go out and dress up.”

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggested only 40.8 per cent of working aged individuals with autism participated in the labour force, compared to 83.2 per cent of people without disability.

Ms van der Walt said she was not surprised by that statistic, but Christopher had been so buoyed by the study, he was now making future employment plans.

She said he was interested in pursuing a career as a program engineer and was looking forward to studying IT at TAFE next year, with a view to study computer programming at Curtin in a couple of years time.