Autism: It’s time to talk about it

WHEN Cindy McCluand’s eldest son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) four years ago the Tamworth local was initially overwhelmed and fearful for the future.

Like so many children before him, Nicholas, 10, was first misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), but further investigations revealed the youngster was autistic and displayed traits linked to Asperges syndrome.

Recently Ms McCluand’s second son, Jayden, 6, was also diagnosed with the life-long developmental disability, which affects, “among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people”, according to Autism Spectrum Australia.

But with about one in 100 Australians diagnosed with the condition, and almost four times as many boys as girls, Ms McCluand and her family are not alone.

Speaking out to shed light on the condition during National Autism Awareness Month, Ms McCluand acknowledged the daily struggles, but said the joys of having autistic children were apparent as well.

“They can be quite black and white and brutally honest, which is kind of sweet sometimes,” Ms McCluand said.

“They also have brilliant minds in science and maths, so hopefully they’ll go far with that.”

On the flip side, however, the slightest sound, touch, light or change in routine can ignite a meltdown.

“I am on call all the time to go out (to the school), which is often,” she said.

“Sometimes I can get them to go back into class and other times we have to go home and rest.

“(Westdale Public School) is great and do go above and beyond especially at present when (Jayden’s) running on meltdown is a safety risk and his supervision while this happens is an extra cost to them.”

To help other families living with children on the spectrum, Ms McCluand has set up a Facebook support page called Tamworth Families with Children on the Autistic Spectrum, where members can discuss their challenges, their successes and achievements.

Mother short-listed for award

MOREE woman Jaki French has been short-listed to win a national award for her services to autism.

The inspirational Aboriginal woman is the mother of a 16-year-old son with autism and is the first indigenous woman to share her honest, frank and moving personal journey.

Ms French has been nominated for the Aspect National Recognition Awards in the category of Parent/Carer of the Year.

The awards will be held in Sydney today.

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