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Parenting a Teen with Autism: Nicole and Scott’s Story

Nicole and Scott’s son, Edward, was diagnosed with Autism at five years of age. Up until three years ago, they had been doing all of the caring and for the most part, were getting by fine. Nicole and Scott both came from hardworking farming families and lived by the motto you do everything yourself and you don’t rely on other people. Living twenty-five kilometres out of Tamworth they had limited access to services and no family support.

As he reached adolescence, Edward’s needs grew and maintaining the household became more demanding. Prior to a change in diet, Edward would wake at 1am and not go back to sleep. Nicole was exhausted. At age sixteen there were difficulties with Edward’s school and the pressure became too much for Nicole and the family. She says, “our world came crashing down.” She had to resign from her teaching position due to Edward’s increasing care needs as no one had prepared her for what life would really be like with a child who has level 3 autism.

She had been given the contact details of Ben Noble at Challenge and had put his business card aside for some time. It took a lot of courage to make the call and reach out for help. But she knew she needed to do it. Nicole says that sometimes people need to give themselves permission to ask for help. She realised it was not self-centred to practice self-care. The whole family would benefit.

“It was a relief when we got the help..”

Nicole says she will never forget that phone call. Challenge could see the big picture. It was not just about the client with a disability that needed help, but a family behind that client too. It was this holistic approach to supporting the family that in turn supported Nicole and Scott at such a crucial time. “It was a relief when we got the help,” Nicole says. Edward is getting the support he needs, but so is the family. From school pick-ups, to taking Edward to constructive activities and giving respite, the support was positive and life soon resettled.

Aside from practical support, over the past two years Edward has attended monthly appointments with Helen Anglias who is Challenge’s Specialist Behaviour Support Practitioner and Senior Psychologist. She provides a positive behaviour support plan for the family which ensures ongoing behaviour support training for Nicole and Scott as well as the support workers who are involved in Edward’s care.

Challenge helped the family create a routine for Edward. Nicole says they really got that routine and predictability helps lower anxiety for Edward, so much so that Edward began to look forward to his time with Challenge support workers. Nicole reports that Edward knows who the support workers are and if there are any changes in the schedule, Challenge promptly communicate this. They are always on time. This professionalism and reliability ensures smooth running in the household.

Even with the COVID pandemic, Challenge have managed to continue encouraging Edward’s development, particularly in terms of life skills. Unable to venture out into the community, Edward became responsible for many basic tasks in the home and on the farm. From topping up the bird bath to watering the vegies to changing and washing his own sheets and hanging them out on the line. Nicole has noticed really positive changes in Edward’s contribution to the family which in turn gives him a sense of agency and increases independence. Just in the last week Nicole has seen him gain kitchen skills like peeling vegetables and other basic food preparation. Nicole says with the right provider, compatible support workers and psychologists, clients like Edward feel comfortable, even during a difficult time.

As restrictions have eased, Edward has resumed his weekly community based activities with the support of Challenge. Nicole is confident that his Challenge support workers are well trained and informed by the behaviour support plan and will handle any difficulties that Edward may face out in the community. Any issues that do arise are reviewed by Helen who works with the family and workers to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Now that things have settled down at home, Nicole has returned to her teaching job two days per week. With the support of Challenge, Nicole has time to look after herself, which in turn makes her a more available and happier parent. Now she even gets to attend yoga!

For more information on Therapeutic Services and Disability Support Services available please phone Challenge on 1800 849 217.


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