Alan Ah Mu
APIA: THURSDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2014: Something was wrong with DJ at age two. He started to repeat words continuously at times, avoided eye contact and walked around on tip toe or bounce on his feet flapping his hands. Most noticeably he wouldn’t response when called.
Alarmed the Greevy’s, Toleafoa Douglas and Lisa, took DJ to a specialist in Auckland, New Zealand, to check their son’s hearing.
But he was diagnosed as autistic.
“We were heart-broken at the prognosis that our son would not have a normal upbringing or normal life ahead,” said Toleafoa.
“And we knew nothing specific about autism,” he said.
Bad as such news are for such children for specialised attention lies ahead it is recognised their parents also need support to cope.
It is why in April last year parents of some 18 children with autism, supported by SENESE Inclusive Support Services, formed a group for mutual support.
They meet for the first time this year on Saturday to plan activities for World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April.
The support group gives parents of autistic children the opportunity to share experiences and better support each other to help their children be included in the community, SENESE says.
“As a parent of an autistic child initially it was very difficult to accept that my child needed help,” said Mahendra Mahimkar.
“More than my child we as parents needed help and support,” said Mahimkar.
“Thanks to SENESE and their initiative of forming a Parent Support Group for autism, we got the help and support needed,” he said.
Another parent of an autistic child, Ben Blair, says the support group can be a huge success because parents will no longer feel that they are alone in their quest to help their child.
Parents will be able to relate to one another’s experiences and learn new techniques to better assist the children in their care.
The main goal of the group is to provide parents with a support network where they can be confident that information shared will stay within the group.
Much has been written about Autism Spectrum Disorder, but little is understood about it, thus preventing children from getting the help they need, says SENESE, a group which supports the inclusion of children in the community.
The aim is exactly the same as Mrs Greevy’s who last year adviced parents like them, “Do not try to keep him at home. Have the child socialise as much as possible and be included in his/her community.”
It was hard to come to terms with their son’s condition, she said, “but in the space of a year, we have learned that … it’s not about how
much DJ has to learn but how much we as his family have to adjust to better teach him in accordance to his learning style.”
Toleafoa said DJ progressed normally as a baby like his old brother: he was happy, fully responsive.
The changes mentioned appeared into his second year.
The Greevys have since learnt the “spectrum” is called such because an autistic person can be located anywhere along a wide variance of the condition – from a reclusive and at times aggressive uncontrollable extreme at one end, through to others who grow up to lead a normal life but also possess some extraordinary levels of memory, intelligence, attention to detail or even music instrument and composition talents.
“DJ just turned four,” said Toleafoa, “and still not able to communicate verbally.” But he has started to count verbally when he wants, and will every now and then speak a perfect sentence from a nursery rhyme or TV show.
“So we know he is able to talk, but all the internal physiological mechanics between his brain and his communication outlet is just still fine tuning itself.”
“He has been on a two-year Gluten-free and organic diet, free of any products with any wheat, flour, milk, sugar or artificial colouring and sweeteners; all of which are to remove any stimulants that might affect him negatively,” he said.
“He will not eat anything he doesn’t recognise, eats all his meat, fruit and vegetables, only drinks water and is the healthiest person in our household!
“He is now very happy and laughing, with good eye and personal contact like hugs and kisses; brings food or things to you if he needs them opened or turned on, but will jump around frustrated or cries when we see he wants desperately to tell or ask us something but can’t put it into words.
“He follows picture or photo processes like flow-charts very well, is a master on the iPad with many games, puzzles and interactive books or apps which shows his logical mind is well advanced.”
Autism is a neural condition, where the brain develops differently, thus having trouble with an important job, which is making sense of the world.
The brain interprets and understands the things we see, hear, touch and experience.
But when the brain has trouble with interpreting, it can impact on someone’s ability to communicate, interact and in some instances learn, and that sums up autism in a nutshell.
Symptoms could vary from being very severe, for instance, some children maybe upset by too much loud noise, and unfamiliar crowded places, while some with milder symptoms do not mind.
Communication is a common difficulty amongst children with ASD which has an impact on their learning.
SENESE Inclusive Support Services involvement is to assist parents and teachers of children with autism by providing advice on how to better adapt their communication and teaching style to benefit the child with autism.
If you suspect that your child maybe showing some of the signs mentioned above, contact your doctor or SENESE on 27532.
If you wish to join the parent support group meeting and need more information, please contact SENESE Inclusive Support Services for more information:
Phone: 685 27532