"Having our child diagnosed with autism was the biggest challenge for me and my husband. Our marriage was even on the verge of breaking down, had we not sought help from experts," mum-of-two Ghia Man reveals to SBS Filipino.
- In 2018, there are 205,200 Australians with autism according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Aging and Carers.
- Preparation for school is a double challenge for families who have kids with autism.
- For Ghia Man's family, early intervention has helped them support their son who has autism.
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Ghia Man and her husband, Jason consider themselves blessed with their two children. Hudson is seven years old and Penny is five, both are in primary school.
But while many Australian students have already settled into their classes after over two weeks since the school year started, there are families, like Ghia Man’s who continue with daily adjustments to be able to support their children with autism to attend school.
Getting each child ready every day to go to school is already a struggle in itself and even more challenging for children with autism.
Ghia's first child is now in Year 2, one may say that she has enough experience in sending children to school. But it was not easy for the Man's.
In fact, preparations for school were different for each of their child.
'Preparing Penny for Kindergarten only took us about two weeks. For Hudson, we have to condition him for at least a month prior to school start.' Credit: Supplied by Ghia Man
Hudson was three when he was clinically diagnosed with mild autism.
Initially, Ghia and her husband, Jason, thought that their firstborn was having a speech delay but after several medical and psychological tests, doctors told them what they didn't want to hear.
"I would call him by his name, but he wouldn't respond, he would just be pointing at things. When he's playing with other kids, you would notice how different his actions are from other kids," the mum of two from Blacktown NSW recalls.
"He has mild autism but he's fully functional. The primary challenge with him now is his anger problem.
"When he doesn't get what he wants, he'll have a big meltdown, crying out for quite a while, sometimes for about half an hour. But after crying out everything, he'll be okay."
Prevalence in Australia
In 2018, one in every 100 people in Australia has Autism.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Disability, Aging and Carers , there are 205,200 Australians with autism, that's a 25% increase from the previous 164,000 in 2015.
In the 2015 data, about 83,700 children and youth between the ages of five and 20 have autism who live with their families and attend school.
'The various therapies helped and continue to help our son with his autism and in getting him into school.' Credit: Supplied by Ghia Man
Therapies and family support
Mrs Man is thankful that she and her husband were able to seek help and let their kid undergo different therapies to help him improve his condition.
"We are lucky that we are here in Australia and we're able to get appropriate support for our son.
"Initially, I told our families first, but not our friends yet, as I don’t want to be judged."
"I told our family that our son needs help, be understanding of him and be patient with him, especially since he didn’t know how to share, and he easily gets frustrated."
After informing their families, Ghia and Jason, "eventually told our friends, our church-mates whom we turn to for assistance at times".
'We are lucky we're here in Australia. We are able to get appropriate support to prepare our son who has autism to attend school and live quite a normal life.' Credit: Supplied by Ghia Man
Community of Parents
When the western Sydney mum was navigating her family's way through to overcome the challenges of autism, Ghia realised that there was a community of parents wanting to share their experiences.
Some were also trying to learn more about autism. That's when Mrs Man created the Autism Mom Pinay Group to give moral support to fellow parents who are also going through the everyday battle against autism.
"The hardest part for me and my husband is thinking ahead about our son's future which is wrong. We were thinking will he be able to go to school and finish his studies. Will he have his own family?"
"For parents like us, we have to take each day at a time. We have to deal with the problem at hand instead of overthinking," Ghia points out.
"Parents have to hold on and be strong for their kids. There's no one else to help your child but YOU," the mum stresses.
"Seek experts' opinions. Take your child to necessary therapies. They make a lot of difference. Remember, early intervention is truly helpful in finding the right measures to deal with your child's autism."