Understanding autism the focus of local forum for families

The Bovey family (Sarah and Michael and their children Elizabeth and Patrick) were prompted to organise an autism forum in Cobar to help connect local families after  Patrick was diagnosed with severe autism.
The Bovey family (Sarah and Michael and their children Elizabeth and Patrick) were prompted to organise an autism forum in Cobar to help connect local families after
Patrick was diagnosed with severe autism.

After Sarah Bovey’s three year old son, Patrick, was diagnosed with severe autism earlier this year it prompted her to reach out and talk to other parents who might be experiencing the same things as her family.

“While researching for answers and information, to better understand my son, I realised that things that ‘we’ consider simple and automatic can be extremely hard and even painful for a child with ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder].

“I believe that if more people understood what life is like for a child with ASD and even what life is like for that child’s parents there would be a lot more understanding and support for people going through this,” Sarah told The Cobar Weekly. 

Sarah admits she didn’t know much about autism before Patrick’s diagnosis.

“I had a very stereotypical view on autism beforehand.

“Patrick is our first child. It did make it difficult to distinguish between what we saw as ‘that’s just Patrick’ and what was ‘normal or average’, even with my history as a child care worker because he was still hitting all the main milestones for a long time,” Sarah said.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which affects the brain’s growth and development. It’s a lifelong condition, with symptoms that appear in early childhood.

No two children with autism are alike.

Children with autism can face challenges with communication and interacting with others; they can have repetitive and different behaviours; they can develop a strong interest in one topic or subject; they can have unusual reactions to what they see, hear, smell, touch or taste; and they may have a preference for routines and dislike change.

Autism can affect the way individuals interact with others and how they experience the world around them.

Sarah said they knew something was “different” about Patrick before the diagnosis but no one could accurately define exactly what that was, often mistaking it for part of Patrick’s personality (everyone learns things at their own pace, etc.).

She said she has been lucky to have the support of family members, including her mother-in-law Anne Bovey.

Through her work as a speech pathologist, Anne treats and sees a range of children with autism, sensory issues, down syndrome and many other disabilities and conditions where a child’s speech is impaired.

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Anne has worked in the Allied Health field since 1975 and for the past 30 runs has run her own speech pathology practice.

“My husband, Michael, and I were speaking with Anne about how we felt we were always trying to describe exactly what Autism was to other people and how a lot of people we’ve come across don’t have a real understanding of what ASD is,” Sarah said.

“Anne suggested that while she was visiting on holidays that we could get a few people together to have a discussion about Autism.

“I put some feelers out to see if people would be interested and I got an overwhelming response which is amazing and hopefully means that people are interested in learning and talking about autism, which is what we really want.”

Sarah and Anne’s autism forum will be held on Monday night and will give an overview of what autism is and how it affects children, parents and the general community.

Anne will also speak about what support is out there and is happy to answer any questions that people may have.

“We also want it to be a sharing of information and support for parents and others who interact with children with autism,” Sarah said.

“This forum is for everyone, parents, educators, teachers, friends, family, general community members.

“We really just want this forum to be a discussion and sharing of information and support to help better understand what these children and families are dealing with so they don’t feel isolated or alone because we truly believe that ‘It takes a village to raise a child’,” Sarah said.