Mr Barter was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was seven and by 10 had been expelled from three schools, forcing Ms Kelly to home school her son.
Ms Kelly said it wasn’t easy raising a child with autism but in light of Autism Awareness Month this month, wanted to let other parents know there was hope and that their children, like her son, could contribute to society.
‘I noticed Patrick was very different from when he was about three,’ Ms Kelly said.
‘He wasn’t coordinated with small motor skills and was sensitive to sound.
‘I was convinced he had autism but my theory was pooh-poohed by health professionals.
‘Years went by before Patrick was diagnosed.’
The mother-of-three from Balcatta said her son was a ‘poster boy for Asperger Syndrome’ and would engage in repetitive interests and resisted change while also having problems with organisation and planning skills.
Despite his autistic traits, and with help from education assistants, 23-year-old Patrick is now studying at TAFE and will graduate in June with a Certificate III in Children Services.
Mr Barter said he liked children and loved having parents and their children come through his till at Woolworths when he worked there for more than two years.
‘I would muck around with the kids,’ he said. ‘I’d make faces at them and I had repeat customers because of it.’
Patrick has been doing his practical unit at Kosy Kids Outside School Hours Care at Yokine Primary School for about a month and runs the outdoor play sessions for the children.
‘I keep them amused and healthy,’ he said.
‘I make them run around so they’re tired by the time their parents come to get them. They like that.’
With only a couple of months before graduating, Patrick is now hoping to gain full-time employment as an educator for an after school care organisation such as Kosy Kids.
Ms Kelly said if she could tell people one thing about autism, it would be how difficult it was for people on the spectrum to operate as normal.
‘The world is often very hostile and confusing, and they struggle to navigate ideas that too many of us would be intuitive and understood,’ she said.
‘However, they can and do succeed, albeit with constant help from their carers.
‘If you have met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.
‘Their individual profiles are very different. Tolerance and understanding go a long way towards acceptance.’