Beeliar family makes effort for autism awareness

Spreading awareness of autism: Jodi Hampel with son Zac, who has autism, and daughter Ava (9).
Spreading awareness of autism: Jodi Hampel with son Zac, who has autism, and daughter Ava (9).

A BEELIAR family are on a journey to spread awareness and understanding of autism to create a greater acceptance of the condition.

Zac Hampel (11) was diagnosed with high functioning autism while in pre-primary.

The youngster’s troubles managing challenging situations and a desire for routine means he faces difficult obstacles every day.

But Zac and his family have decided to use their experience to create awareness of the condition and their efforts have already paid off.

Zac, a Year 6 Mater Christi student, and his younger sister Ava (9) spoke to their respective classes to talk about autism, and they made a presentation to a packed school assembly.

“My classmates understood me a lot more after I told them about my autism,” Zac said.

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The family also organised a fundraising walk for autism around Bibra Lake on April 2, attracting more than 120 people.

Proud mum Jodi said the family wanted to create awareness.

“I think awareness brings understanding and understanding brings acceptance,” she said.

“I don’t want Zac just to be able to cope; I want him to thrive.”

She said people often overlooked his many talents, from art, mathematics and his ability to recount football stats.

“Autism doesn’t define him,” she said.

“I want him to celebrate his differences. I don’t want him to ever think it’s a bad thing because it does bring him other special qualities.”

Autism Association of WA spokesman Paul Baird said knowledge of autism was growing all the time.

“What we knew about autism back in the 50s and 60s is very different to how we understand the condition now, but it does mean that there are a lot of misconceptions about the disorder out there in the community,” he said.

Among them is that all people with autism have the same difficulties, that they all have a “savant skill” making them gifted, or that children with autism are more aggressive.

“It’s also difficult to explain autism, as the condition has a very broad spectrum of symptoms,” Mr Baird said.

“No person with autism is the same as another and this can often lead to misunderstandings as we can sometimes assume we know what autism looks like, when in fact it can affect people in different ways.”

The Hampel’s fundraising walk has so far raised for $2400 for Autism Spectrum Australia.