When Jacob Gordon was a baby, he was a noticably poor sleeper, but as many infants are not great with nighttime routines, it was perhaps not so unusual.
However, as Jacob got older, his sleep patterns did not improve and parents Jacinta and David became increasingly concerned, especially after they began to see other issues.
“Jacob never slept. He still doesn’t sleep. He’s a very, very poor sleeper,” Mrs Gordon said.
“He would sleep for maybe an hour and then be awake for maybe four or five hours, then have another hour.
“Still, to this day, that’s how we sleep, although now he does sleep a little bit longer.”
“And then at 18 months, everything just changed. He stopped talking and communicating.”
Jacob was diagnosed with autism when he was two.convenor
“Now he’s talking and everything,” Mrs Gordon said.
The six-year-old attends a range of health appointments, including speech and occupational therapy.
“He goes to Red Hill Public School and he's in the unit there, and they are amazing. His teacher is fantastic,” Mrs Gordon said.
Jacob has also had ongoing specialised therapies at the Kurrajong Early Intervention Service.
Mrs Gordon said some of Jacob’s therapies were able to be done while he was at school.
For the Gordons, events like the Superhero Walk are vitally important, particularly because of the level of community support.
In addition to the people who took part in the walk, Wagga businesses and organisations put up stalls in Apex Park in support of the event.
“Without everybody, it wouldn’t come together,” Mrs Gordon said.
The Wagga mum has noticed that level of support echoing right through the community, where she sees attitudes to people who have autism are being steadily improved by a growing understanding of the condition.
“A lot of people look at a little person who is chucking a tanty in the middle of the road and might now think ‘well, it’s not just the kid being naughty’,” she said.
“It's the little things people may just not understand. Like you’re driving down the road and turn left, and he wanted to go right, or you’re in a supermarket and he becomes upset because you’re walking down and up the aisles, but he wanted to go up and down.
“It’s these little things that can cause a big drama.
“But more and more people are starting to realise that it is about awareness. We’re not here for fundraising today, we are here for awareness.
“There are so many kids, and adults and young teens in Wagga – who have got autism so it makes a big difference for everybody.”
In Wagga, there are strong support networks in place for people with autism, and a range of therapies and services available, Mrs Gordon said.
“We’ve got more and more coming in now that can help us, which is very good. There are so many people who need it,” she said.
Superheroes walk among us and they’re raising autism awareness
A colourful league of superheroes gathered on the foreshores of Lake Albert.
This super important – but not very secret – meeting was the 2018 Superhero Walk for Autism.
Dozens of children and adults dressed in the costumes of their favourite superheroes and set off from Apex Park for the annual event.
There were plenty of Spidermen, Iron Men, Wonder Women, Supermen, and even an old-school Zorro or two.
Wagga Mayor Greg Conkey and his wife Jenny – dressed in Batman and Superman T-shirts – brought their grandsons to the walk, while member for Wagga Daryl Maguire teamed up with member for Riverina and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack to stroll along the foreshore.
One of the organisers, Deb Bewick from Wagga Autism Support Group, was thrilled with the turnout.
Ms Bewick said the walk has had strong support for the past five years and this community involvement was only growing.
She said the increasing support seemed to be in line with a growing community awareness and understanding of autism.
“There is a lot more positive media attention about autism,” Ms Bewick said.
In addition to the walk, there were craft and fun stalls, a jumping castle and a barbecue lunch.
There was also some hot competition for the prizes for the best dressed superhero.