Workshop builds support for parents and caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

SHANNON Rea strives to ensure the challenges faced by her son Max, who has Asperger’s syndrome, are not the focus of his care.

Mrs Rea said she performed ‘early intervention’ in some situations to keep Max, 9, happy and calm but his disorder had not prevented him from having a happy disposition and lots of friends.

Mrs Rea, of Childers Cove, was among 36 parents and other caregivers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who attended a workshop in Warrnambool this week to help develop support networks with the wider community.

The workshop was organised by Positive Partnerships as part of a national program to support children of school age with autism.

Mrs Rea said the workshop was a positive experience and celebrated the strengths of children with ASD rather than focus on their challenges.

She said her son was fortunate to have a teacher at Allansford and District Primary School who was very supportive and had encouraged her to attend the Warrnambool workshop.

It had been two years since her son was diagnosed with the disorder and she came to the workshop to learn more about the condition.

The workshop had reaffirmed to her that she was doing the best she could for Max.

“You have to make sure he is heard and not dismissed, that he feels loved, protected and is not being misunderstood,” Mrs Rea said.

Mrs Rea said she strove to make the family home a calm haven for her son but there were other sensory stimuli outside the home that could affect his calm and the way he co-operated.

Positive Partners project manager Karen Jones said the workshop aimed to help parents and other carers of ASD children connect with similar families. The Positive Partnerships program also aimed to break down any barriers between families who have a member with ASD and the wider community, such as disability service organisations.

Ms Jones said families with an ASD member often had to take an advocacy role.

“We are saying to parents they have the knowledge. They are the experts with their child, they can speak for their child,” Ms Jones said.

Giving parents and other caregivers of ASD children the chance to meet with each other empowered them in their advocacy role, Ms Jones said.

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