Port Pirie locals share their experiences with autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder affects 1 in 100 Australians, with many more people never receiving a formal diagnosis.

Throughout April, as part of Autism Awareness Month, brave Port Pirie locals will share their personal stories in order to raise awareness and educate the public about the disorder.

Rebecca Blight: My family connection

Lately I have noticed Autism Awareness flags flying high through our city centre.

The flags represent a lot of love, sweat and tears surrounding the impact autism can have on a family.

It can sometimes be heartbreaking but with a lot of love and care. My partner and I have three sons – our 5-year-old has a diagnosis of autism and so does my 18-year-old sister.

There are many reasons why autism awareness and acceptance is necessary.

My wish is for all therapies and aid facilities available in the city to also be available in the country, so all have access to the same values and resources as anyone else would be entitled to.

I am very proud to see our local community making a valuable contribution to building awareness and inclusion for all people on the spectrum, young and old. I hope for a future that empowers families with quality information and resources.

So we continue our journey and value our community’s support this April during Autism Awareness Month.

Kelly Church: A professional passion

As an occupational therapist, I am passionate about raising awareness, and decreasing the stigma associated with autism. 

I am privileged to work with and support many families who deal with the day to day struggles related to this condition. 

Many of the children I work with can appear to cope with everyday life, but struggle with many issues that are not visible. 

These children may have difficulties coping with changes in routine, making friends, regulating their emotions and rudimentary tasks which includes, drawing, cutting and writing. 

It is so common for individuals to perceive children with autism as being ‘naughty’ but they are not aware of the struggles these children go through daily. 

It is so important to raise awareness of Autism, to help families support their children to achieve their full potential. 

Mitchell Craig: My personal journey

During my late primary school and early secondary school years, I often felt isolated from my peers. Experiencing consistent long-term bullying and social stigma meant I struggled to interact with them at school, and almost never interacted with them outside of school. 

When diagnosed with autism during Year 5, I didn’t really know what it meant or how it affected me. Over time I came to accept my diagnosis and understood that it didn’t define me, just explained me. 

It was only with the help of some amazing teachers, family and friends that I was able to put the stigma, the isolation, behind me and become my best self, achieving my dream of going to University at the end of last year. 

But it wasn’t easy. The bullying still affects me from time to time even today, and I would imagine there are other adults with autism who have similar experiences. 

The public need to understand that we are people – we have dreams, we want friends, we love the people close to us and we enjoy life. We just need a little extra help with making it happen.