It’s all about relationships

Young boy plays with toys on carpet

Family reflects on the challenges, lessons, and triumphs of raising a child with autism

Since Ege, the youngest of Selim and Handan’s four sons was diagnosed with autism, the parents have become valued supporters of Positive Partnerships. They have worked with us to develop resources and been involved in reference groups for culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Specifically, the family have had an important influence on ‘A Family Journey’, an animation we recently released in celebration of World Autism Awareness Day.

We have also filmed their story for use at workshops for culturally and linguistically diverse families, as well as being available online.

We’ve enjoyed being a part of, and learning about the Pullu family’s journey. They have both shared some of their struggles, successes and lessons with us, particularly Selim who shared his story of being a father of child with autism.

“I sometimes feel lonely in the subject,” Selim revealed in an interview we have used to develop the video material. “Men often find it hard to talk and share,” he said.

“It is the same culturally as well. I am trying to get the dads together to talk about their kids and experiences, share improvements and concerns, and talk about the way they treat their children”.

Selim and Handan knew something wasn’t right with Ege, having 3 older children in their family. Initially Handan came to Australia with Ege and two of his brothers to find services and support, while Selim finished his work in Turkey and their oldest son finished his studies.

The pathway to diagnosis was not easy; there were challenges with language and culture. While Handan waited for Selim and their oldest son to join them in Australia, she set about doing her own research to find reliable information and access services for their son. Handan has expressed how wonderful the services were while they were waiting for assessment. After diagnosis they decided to move to the city to be closer to the services, education and employment opportunities they needed.

Despite the challenges, Selim has maintained a positive attitude to the diagnosis, saying “this diagnosis makes you stronger”.

“It depends how you look at it. You have to accept it, be calm and try to do your best,” he told us in the interview.

Ege has made incredible progress with the support and advocacy of his parents. “Our child was non-verbal a year ago, and now he’s speaking,” Handan told us during the same interview.

“That’s the biggest improvement we can ask for. We understand what he wants and what he needs,” Selim added.

Selim describes developing relationships as one of the most important issues, specifically that it “must start in the family”.

“Everyone must know what’s going on and what needs to be done,” he continued. “They must share the work and responsibility”. In this family, Ege’s brothers play important roles.

Partnerships with teachers and therapists have also been crucial. According to Selim, “people are very helpful [and] if you go to the right place and ask correctly, you can find any help or aid you need”.

A resource they have found particularly useful in working with these community professionals is a communication book. “Communication with the school and working together with the school is the best thing for the child,” Handan said. She added that “parents need to share information with the school because every child is different”.

Like most parents, their hopes for Ege are simple.

“My hope and dream of course is for my son to be independent [and] a happy child,” Handan said. They also have a focus on making sure Ege has appropriate educational support.

“We like to take everything day by day, we don’t have many expectations, any expectation for next year,” Handan explained. “Everyday improvements, everyday developments, are more than enough for us right now”.

Selim’s parting advice for other parents, particularly fathers, is to “be proud; don’t feel bad about your child [and] if the family comes together you will get better results”.

“Don’t isolate him, try to understand him, observe him, knock on the doors for help and if help comes to you, let it in”.