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Michele Gower
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SURVIVE TO THRIVE: HEALING FROM AUTISM

I loved my son with all my heart, and I wanted better for him...so I ignored the 'specialists' and started researching...

Josh's younger years
Joshua is our second eldest son. From a young age (around 3 years) we realised that he was quite different to his older brother. His behaviour was different, he got sick more often, he didn't sleep as well, and he wasn't meeting expected milestones.

We took him to various services to try to see what the issue might be - baby clinics on the Central Coast, baby specialists in Sydney and sometimes the Dr. We never got a clear answer to the problem. 

We'd been at our daycare for 5 years (as our eldest son went through) and Josh had been there from about 12 months old. They would suggest to us that we have Josh 'tested' as they could also see that something wasn't quite right. He wasn't engaging with the other kids so well, he would rarely eat what the hot meals they provided, rather just eating boiled rice.

We started Speach Therapy, and I realised just how far behind in his language he was. It was quite eye opening. We had our own little routine (as routines were so important to Josh!) where we would drop his older brother off at school, go and get him a cheesymite scroll and myself a hot chocolate and continue to the speach therapist. However, the days that we were running late, and couldn't stop at the bakery, were just chaos. So much so that the speach therapist said she could not work with him if he missed his scroll - he was just too 'out of sorts'.

I would sometimes go to Maccas for a coffee with a few Mums after school drop off. If I forgot to tell Josh we were going, he would not come in. I would have to go and tell them that I wasn't coming in as Josh refused to get out of the car, and dragging him in kicking and screaming was not an option for me. Of course the Mums naturally thought he was very strange - what child doesn't want to go into Maccas! 

I had days which were simply horrible. One day that stounds out was my birthday. My best friend was coming up to the Coast from Sydney to take me out to lunch. Josh and I had a terrible morning. He was angry and poured a whole bottle of cordial all over the kitchen floor. I rang my friend in tears and told her not to come up. I had had enough and just wanted to spend the day at home by myself. Being the wonderful friend that she was, she knew what I really needed and came up. 

Josh's diagnosis
We continued trying to figure out what was 'wrong' with Josh. We were finally told by a female psychologist that Mums know their child, and they believed that there was an issue. Up until that point, we had been told many different things, but that nothing was really wrong - he was just lazy, we were bad parents, I was expecting him to be like his brother etc. However, a Mum does know. I knew there was more to it.

When Josh was in Year 1, we recieved the diagnosis of Autism. Not Aspergers like I had been assuming, but Autism. The diagnosis of autism was due to his very poor vocabularly and speaking ability. This was in 2010.  In 2010 there was not nearly as much information or discussions as there is about Autism (now commonly reffered to as ASD). We didn't know anyone else that had a child 'on the spectrum', and all I'd ever known of Autism was from the movie 'Rainman'. Needless to say, my husband and I were both broken shocked. His school was shocked as they knew he needed 'extra support' but didn't realise that the diagnosis would be Autism. 

Along with the diagnosis came a visit to the paediatrician. The paediatrician recited a 'laundry' list of all the things Josh would likely never achieve in his life - make good friends, express emotion, achieve at school, show compassion, get married, have a family, drive a car and even feel love. 

Confusion, doubt, anger, and 'what now' were just some of the feelings we had. When the paediatrician gave us the run down on everyting Josh would never accomplish, he also gave us the 'treatment' - antipsychotic medication, 3 times a day. Hubby and I inquired as to how long would this need to be for. The response 'the rest of his life'. Josh was only 7. Another round of shock hit us.

Over the coming days we decided that we didn't like the Dr's projected outcomes, and we didn't like his suggested treatment. The time came for us to make a hard decision - do what we were told, or find our own way. We decided to go out on our own and look for help for our son. If that's all the 'specialist' had for us, then we were saying 'thanks, but no thanks'. We didn't just want our son to survive, we wanted him the THRIVE.

This began the maze of life - we were in the dark just trying to find our way. My husband and I read books, watched documentaries online, read whatever we could fine. There wasn't' a lot of information online, but slowly we found our way. 

Change of lifestyle - a new way
We heard about an Aspect school in our area - which is a school for children with Autism. They have 'satellite' classes, which are classes held in mainstream schools. The classes had 6 students and 2 teachers. We were told that we had little chance of getting in as the waiting list was long. When there was an opening at one of the schools, by the Grace of God, Josh was selected. We were hearbroken to pull him out of his school as he had great friends, the teachers were lovely, we had built a great community around us and our heart was there. However, we had to make the right decision for Josh. I still wasn't sure it was right, but we had to give it a shot.

The next 2 years were difficult, but absolutely life giving for Josh. His teachers were just divine. They cared so well for him and gave us a lot of great advice on how to best help Josh - advice we had never received from any of the 'specialists' we'd been seeing over the years. After 2 years it was decided that Josh was now doing so well, he could return to mainstream at his old school. His friends would often ask about him, and welcomed him back with open arms. It was less strain on us as we had previously had our 4 kids going in 4 different directions every day - one in highschool, one at the Aspect school, one in our chosen primary school and one in pre-school - life had definitely been chaotic. 

The change in school had done wonders for Josh, it was a true Godsend. We also made many other changes that made a huge difference in Josh's life - we cut chemicals from our diets (colours, preservatives and additives), we limited his screentime dramatically, got him involved in a sport and many other changes. Over time, we started to see the difference it made. He was happy, was no longer threatening to run away from home, or damaging property, or having 'meltdowns'. People were commenting on how much Josh had changed. They couldn't believe the difference in him. We were constantly told 'he is like a different kid'. And he was. The old Josh was gone, and his 'lights' were back on in his eyes. We were getting our boy back!

Our son is back
Josh is now 17 and is thriving in all areas of life - he has a great social group, loves his drama class after school, is one of the Mariners mascots at the games, enjoys his part time job, is doing amazingly at school, does more than 100+ hours of community service each year, but above all, he is full of love for others and is wonderful at demonstrating his feelings. As parents we can rest assured that he has a bright future ahead of him, and we know, without doubt, that he will continue to thrive - and I'll continue to do everything I can to make sure of it

Can I help?
If you feel that you are being let down by your existing support services in any way, please contact me so we can discuss your options. I have a few different courses, workshops and classes you might be interested in attending, or alternatively lets book a one on one session and look at all the possibilities that lies ahead for your child, and what we can do to help him or her achieve them. Together, let's thrive!

"They eyes are the lamp of the body. If your eye is clear,
then your whole body is full of light"

Matthew 6:22

About Michele Gower

I have a passion for supporting youth and families. My areas of expertise include Autism and similar diagnosis, raising teens and the general mental health and well being of individuals and family members. I am based on the Central Coast of NSW, but offer online consultations (via Zoom). Please reach out if you think I can be of service to yourself or your family...

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Let's Thrive
54 Hills Street
North Gosford NSW 2258
Australia
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