Support for ‘Aspy' families
THE snapshots are sprawled across the table. Tammy Baxter touches each photo gently as she recounts the story behind it.
Her son Bailee, now 13, is captured as a toddler. He's in the shower. And he's screaming blue murder.
Only the top of his little head is visible in the next photograph. He's tucked away safely in a garbage bin that doubles as a bath.
"He might not like the echo," Katy Fowle pipes in, explaining Bailee's aversion to the shower.
Tammy then shares her exasperation at Bailee's refusal to play with any of the whiz-bang toys in their backyard.
Her husband built a "whopping" sand pit and an amazing cubby house.
But Bailee didn't want a bar of them.
The toy he liked most was an old Esky he could sit in for hours.
"Because it's closed in," Katy explains again.
"Hugs can be uncomfortable but you still like that pressure."
Katy understands. Sensory overload is also an issue for her.
When she walks into a crowded room it takes her time to focus on the details, to separate the sights and sounds that compete for her attention.
She's an 'Aspy'. She was diagnosed last year at age 44. And Tammy's boy is also on the spectrum.
It's a Friday morning and the ladies are at the Community Hub in Gladstone.
The weekly committee meeting is a chance to chat. To vent. But it's also a time to plan.
They run the Family Support Group for Asperger's/Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Tammy's the president. Katy's her
Secretary Kianne Humberstone is also here today.
Her seven-year-old son Bailey was diagnosed with Asperger's last January.
It can be tough. But Kianne knows she can share her struggles with the group.
When asked how much that helps, Kianne lets out a long breath. "It's unbelievable. It's huge."
Tammy's still showing off pictures of her son: Bailee covered top-to-toe in blue paint; with his idol Elmo and embracing his little sister, Kimberly, 9.
Her expression changes with the next frame. As has Bailee's temperament.
His face is beet red and screwed up. His fists are clenched tightly. It's a right and proper tantrum.
"Then you've got that child you could walk away from tomorrow," Tammy trails off.
Her friends nod their heads in agreement. They all get it.
Fast forward to the following Sunday afternoon at Calliope State School.
It's the second support group out here. Special needs teacher Kayleen Bishop has made it, plus two mothers. A third joins towards the end.
Tammy's speaking and it's obvious Katy wants to add her two cents worth.
The words are trying to escape her lips but Katy forcibly holds them back.
It can be difficult for an Aspy to gauge social situations.
But Katy's trying her hardest not to butt in. There's a lull and Katy says her bit.
She stops midway and looks at Tammy.
"Is that an appropriate time to come in?" she asks.
"You did well," Tammy responds.
The bond between these two is especially strong and Katy is grateful for the support of Tammy and the group.
"As an adult Aspy I needed a safe haven where I could be me…and not feel bad for being me," Katy says.
"To feel valued; that I have something to offer."
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is an umbrella term that encompasses a number of conditions including Autistic Disorder and Asperger's Syndrome.
Those on the spectrum experience:
Challenges in communicating and interacting with others
Thinking in a flexible way
Processing information from their senses
Adapting their behaviours to what can seem incredibly confusing and frustrating situations
Despite having difficulties in these same core areas, no two people on the spectrum are the same.
Some may also have a significant intellectual impairment while others may have average or above average intelligence.
Some may have little or no verbal language skills through to those who are highly verbal yet still have difficulty using these language skills socially.
For more visit www.autismqld.com.au
The Family Support Group meets next Friday, September 21, from 6.30pm at the Community Hub (5 Buller St, Gladstone). Call Tammy Baxter for details on 0438 493 347.
The Family Support Group hopes to:
Raise awareness about Asperger's/ Autism Spectrum Disorder in the community
Provide a safe, non-judgmental haven for parents/carers/those on the spectrum to share their struggles
Give advice and direct families to any necessary services
Become the port-of-call for families living with the spectrum