Learning to advocate

Handshake at school

Mount Gambier family accessing autism support service

Being told that your child is on the autism spectrum is something that no parent wants to hear, and this was certainly the case for Heather Arthurson when her son Tom was diagnosed at the age of four. But for Heather, the diagnosis also meant that she was able to understand her son more than she ever had before.

“We started the process when Tom was just over three years old and did not receive an official diagnosis until just after his fourth birthday. By the time you receive the diagnosis you are prepared for it, because it takes so long.”

“Tom is now 12 and attends a mainstream school as we live in a rural area. It works well for us and him because it is a small school with around 50 students and all the kids have grown up knowing Tom. As we prepare him for high school we expect the transition to be more challenging as there will be 1000 students at the school as opposed to 50.”

“The primary difficulties that Tom faces are with language and academia. He has a comprehensive and expressive language disorder and this makes it hard for him to understand others and get his point across. He also has an intellectual disability which impacts on his ability to learn.”

“Our entire family is supportive towards Tom. He has three brothers – an older brother and twin younger brothers – and they are all extremely protective of him. They stop at nothing to ensure that he is happy and comfortable. Of course they have their sibling moments as any family would, but they are very understanding; they understand when Tom has an “autism moment” and they all have to leave the room, or when he only eats particular foods. My oldest son, Bill, is 13 and has been classed as a ‘carer’ because he takes care of Tom so much.”

“I found out about Positive Partnership workshops two or three years ago when it was recommended to me by a disability association that I was in contact with. I have found these workshops to have been extremely helpful, particularly because it gave me an understanding of where I stood with the school and what I could advocate on Tom’s behalf.”

“In the recent workshop we attended we learnt some valuable techniques for Tom’s transition into high school such as how he would go about making friends and what to do if he is confronted by bullies.”

“My experience with Positive Partnerships has been invaluable and I have recommended the workshops to others in the community. I am particularly grateful that the workshops are available in regional areas like ours and that we haven’t been missed. ”