Monday, June 25, 2012

'Australian Autism Handbook' - and the heading that changed my life

Benison O'Reilly is the co-author of the 'Australian Autism Handbook' - it's one of the first books I bought when I received my son's autism diagnosis. In fact, I vividly recall flicking through the book at my local Dymock's bookstore. There I was, during Thursday late night shopping, twenty minutes before closing time. I'd put the kids to bed and told my husband I had to go "TONIGHT!" to get some books on autism. I had to understand what was going, what I could do to help my precious boy. And internet research just wasn't going to cut it. I needed: a book. Several of them.

And so, after asking the bookstore assistant I'd called prior to make sure she had "lots of books on autism" I turned up and she showed me to the right section. I picked the book which begged to be picked up -  'Australian Autism Handbook' - and scoured it. My eyes came to the part on page 31 where it says under a heading in caps: "ASDs [Autism Spectrum Disorders] ARE NOT CAUSED BY BAD PARENTING". It continued: "We've already discussed this. The myth of the 'refrigerator mother' has well and truly been debunked."

I burst into tears, right there in the bookstore. The bookstore assistant soon came by to ask if I needed assistance and noticed tears streaming down my face. I explained. She nodded, and told me some words of reassurance I now can't remember. I was just relieved. Autism wasn't about something I'd done. It wasn't my fault. I felt understood, and ready for the journey ahead.

I bought the book.

That's co-author Benison. I asked her to write a series of pieces on autism. I will be posting them in the coming weeks. What she's got to say is powerful and important. And she should know: her son Joe was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder just after his third birthday.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

This is autism: by Leah Bradley

The first guest post comes from Leah, mum of two, about autism:

"Imagine for a minute you have a shocking headache or even a migraine and need to get the weekly shopping done. Everything seems brighter, louder, every one of your senses are heightened to the point of screeching pain.

This utter confusion and inability to be able to disseminate noises, sound, touch – everything being jumbled together… this is autism – total sensory overload.

Now imagine for a minute having to take your child with autism out to the shops because you have no-one to leave your child with, to give your child a break from the extreme pain of shopping. 

Remembering that every sense is heightened, these “kids” can’t break down and make sense of it all. So to cope they flap their hands, walk on their toes, hum, hold their hands over their ears, walk in circles, or even screech. 

As the parent you need to concentrate on your shopping list, whilst keeping an eye on your child, and very acutely aware of the staring of others, the comments of “give the child a smack for God’s sake”… you get the idea. 

You might have even witnessed such a scenario and said the same things...

I challenge you instead to walk a mile, or even a step in my shoes. 

Instead, offer to assist that very overloaded parent with their shopping. 

Or even a genuine smile.

Just don’t judge!"

Leah Bradley is mum to 11 year old Nicholas, who has a diagnosis of High Functioning Autism, and Emily age 12. She writes a blog called 'Leah's Soapbox':

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Our Autism Adventures: why I started this blog

Living with a child with autism is one big adventure [though not always the fun, exciting kind].

And so, there was no better name than that for my new blog: Autism Adventures.

The site address is - and the adventures are indeed ours to share.

Rafael was diagnosed with autism at age two, although I suspected something was different about my son at age 1.

As a mum... you just know.

Plus, because he has a twin sister, I had the best barometer possible for gauging milestones. In the beginning, they seemed very much on par. In fact, Raf uttered "mamma" before Estella did.

But then... nothing.

There was no point being in denial - although initially, it was like a knife to the heart, and I gave myself a little time to grieve the loss of 'the perfect child'. You know there is no such thing as 'perfect', but - especially when you're a first-time mum - you have grand hopes and dreams for your little baby. Who will they be? What will they do? I of course still have these dreams for my precious boy... just different ones.

And so, I got to work to help my child: speech therapy, occupational therapy, a special playgroup, daycare with an aid teacher, all of which still happens today.

Next year is school - and there'll be many more adventures awaiting with that journey.

And so, here we are: a blog on thoughts and experiences and stories... 

They won't always be mine - I will have guest bloggers here all the time [if you'd like to tell your story, either under your name or anonymously, please drop me a line at]. 

After all, I have found that the more we share about raising children with autism, the more real our stories become, and the more the stigma, the misconceptions, the misinformation is broken down. And that sense of commonality - about the struggles and triumphs, about the journey, the adventure! - can do nothing but good.

Pic: Life Stories Photography []