AS THE mother of an autistic child, Tamworth woman Lisa Jenner knows just how important a strong support network is.
So she’s eager to become involved in a world-first project being co-ordinated by the University of Sydney that’s offering NSW parents of children with a disability two years of free parenting support.
Those behind the Stepping Stones Triple P Project believe that by offering free parenting sessions over a number of years, high levels of emotional and behavioural problems in children with a disability can be reduced.
A research study found 71 per cent of children with a developmental disability showed substantial behaviour improvement after their parents completed a Stepping Stones program.
Cody Jenner is six and was diagnosed with autism when he was three.
He started at West Tamworth Public School last year where mum Lisa said he was thriving, with his speech, reading and writing all improving.
“We’ve seen great things in him. For him to read me a story after being a little boy who started school and couldn’t hold a pencil properly, that’s amazing,” she says, with a tear in her eye.
Cody’s behaviours though are still challenging for Lisa and her husband, and she can see a lot of benefit in the Stepping Stones project offering parents more support in this area.
She’s also hopeful the program will raise more awareness in the community about autism and how it manifests itself.
“One of the biggest fears for us (when he was diagnosed) was the amount of ignorance out there,” she said.
“Autism doesn’t show up as a physical feature, you can’t see it, so when Cody has a meltdown in public, many people just assume he’s being naughty.”
The response from the public can be very negative, complete strangers feeling they have the right to offer their own parenting advice.
“Public ignorance is the biggest challenge for us, so if this (project) can also help educate more people, then that’s another bonus,” Lisa said.