Plea for autism awareness

Melanie Green with her son Ollie (2). Picture: Dominique Menegaldo www.communitypix.com.au d398348
Melanie Green with her son Ollie (2). Picture: Dominique Menegaldo www.communitypix.com.au d398348

Adding her voice to Autism Awareness Month, Melanie Green said when her first-born son Toby (3) was diagnosed with autism in November 2011 she felt as if she had been ‘thrown into a pitch black room with the door closed behind’ her.

At the time, Mrs Green, of Iluka, knew little about autism or where to access support.

She said no other parent or carer needed to feel that way.

The 34-year-old and her husband found the support their family needed in WA’s only Autism Specific Early Learning and Care Centre in Bedford.

After taking Toby to the centre, Mrs Green noticed signs of autism in her other son Ollie (2), who was diagnosed with the disorder in October last year and now also attends the centre.

Knowing both sons had autism, Mrs Green said she felt as if her life ‘had been turned upside down’ and that she began to ‘dread’ her boys’ futures and how people would treat them throughout their lives.

‘It’s hard for people to understand autism,’ she said.

‘It’s very complex and every person living with autism is different to others living with it.

‘I would love people to understand more about the diversity of autism and be more accepting of autistic people, especially when we are all trying to teach our children that being different is OK.’

Mrs Green said although both her children had autism and were diagnosed early, their symptoms were different.

‘Toby was very anxious. He cried a lot and hated noises; they made him really upset,’ she said.

‘He also talked non-stop.

‘Ollie was the total opposite.

‘He has only just started trying to use words and he seeks out a lot of sensory input; he always needs to be touching things.’

Since taking her children to the centre, Mrs Green said she had seen vast improvements in both of them.

‘Having the kids at the care centre has meant a massive change in our lives,’ she said.

‘There are people at the centre who understand Toby and Ollie and have also helped me to understand their behaviour.

‘It’s the best thing I have done for them and I only wish there could be more childcare centres like it in WA.’

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day.