Autism Awareness for Brisbane Families

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April is Autism Awareness Month, a worldwide initiative to help spread awareness and acceptance of people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders. The Light it Up Blue campaign was pioneered by Autism Speaks in 2010 to coincide with Autism Awareness Month, and has been hugely popular in cities around the world, including here in Brisbane.

Autism affects at least 1 in every 160 children. Chances are you know a child with autism. Find out how you can help.

Creating a community of love and acceptance

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that the severity of symptoms vary from person to person. People with autism tend to have difficulty with interpersonal communication, expressive language and social skills, engage in fixed interests or repetitive patterns of behaviour, and tend to have impaired sensory function. These challenges can impact greatly on performance of day to day tasks. Kids with autism can have difficulty focussing on tasks in class and can have trouble getting work done on time. The playground can be challenging socially, as well as being over-stimulating. Some kids struggle with transitioning between tasks, so even getting through the day can be a battle.

Your child may have a classmate with autism, and you may have been told that they are the ‘naughty kid’. This is heartbreaking for that child and for their parents. Kids with autism need acceptance and support. What is often assumed to be ‘naughty’ behaviour is most likely the result of that child feeling overwhelmed or confused. By better understanding that child’s triggers, strategies can be put in place to help them to calm down and get back on track. It might be that they need some heavy work to provide proprioceptive input, or some time in a quiet, sensory-neutral spot to self-regulate. Teach your child (and their teacher) a few strategies that can make them a great friend to a child in the class who may have autism. These strategies might include:

1.     Don’t expect eye contact. Eye contact can be overwhelming. But talk to your classmate anyway. Include them. They are most likely listening.

2.     Your classmate may not be great at playing tag, but they might just love to climb ladders, swing from monkey bars, or practice some wheelbarrow walks with you. Many kids with autism find heavy work activities enjoyable.

3.     Give your classmate time to answer you. If you’ve asked a question, give them more time than you think they need to answer. Count to 5 slowly before repeating the question. People with autism often have auditory delays, which means they need a little bit more time to think about what you’ve said and respond.

4.     Your classmate may occasionally flap their arms, or repeat sentences out loud over and over. Don’t tease. They can’t help it.

5.     Many kids on the autism spectrum are very visual learners. If you want them to learn a new game or participate in a group task in class, show them how it’s done. Provide pictures or other images. Write down a list of instructions. This would be very much appreciated.

Children are often so much better than adults at accepting differences in others. If we give them the tools to be better friends to kids with autism, we are building a stronger community and a great future for our kids.

Brisbane Families can Light it Up Blue

Have some fun with Light it Up Blue, and use this time to teach your family about autism. There are Light it Up Blue events happening all over Brisbane this month. 

Why Autism Awareness? Because chances are you know someone with autism, and our Brisbane families who are affected by this disorder need our love and support.

About the author:

Nicole Grant is a Brisbane mum of two, the Director of Gateway Therapies and an Occupational Therapist. Gateway Therapies is a private allied health therapy practice in Carina. The therapists work with both children and adults, but specialise in working with children with autism and their families. For more information click here.

Autism or Developmental Language Disorder?

You’ve heard about autism but what about DLD? Developmental Language Disorder or DLD affects 1 in 14 children. DLD causes difficulties with speaking and understanding for no known reason. The biggest challenge is you can’t tell by looking at a person that they have DLD and therefore, they often get overlooked for support. Families Magazine is very proud to support inclusivity and diversity in all that we do which is why we are shining a light on this hidden but common lifelong condition. Find out more about DLD here.

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