Caring for a child with autism

“If you are around someone parenting an ASD kid, be understanding; empathetic not sympathetic.” 

Tyler Broad, a teacher on the Sunshine Coast, is more experienced than most when it comes to working with children on the autism spectrum. Tyler had already taught and supported teenagers on the spectrum for years before his own three sons were born, two of whom are diagnosed with ASD. 

“Connor was our first kid. The diagnosis started young, about two years of age. Family, day-care and my mum noted some ‘flags’. [The] only real thing we noticed early on was he didn’t respond to his name like kids do and his speech was lacking.” 

Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) estimates that 1 in 70 Australians will be diagnosed with autism based on the most recent autism prevalence studies. That number is up by 40% from 2014, but Aspect CEO Adrian Ford says that this isn’t because autism is on the rise, but rather that we are getting better at diagnosing it, “This is really good news,” Mr Ford said, “With research highlighting the importance of early diagnosis and intervention for children on the spectrum and their families.”

While it is definitely a positive that community awareness is improving along with diagnosis rates, it doesn’t mean that the families of autistic children don’t face challenges.

Tyler recalls a particularly hard day when he came back from another shop to find his wife Kele-Jane and son Connor in tears, “See, what happened was my boy got sensory overloaded and began to meltdown. Unfortunately, his meltdown was in front of someone’s shop who decided it was their place to tell my wife to sort out her badly-behaved kid…. Just be kind, be understanding. There is so much awareness now, there is no excuse for a lack of understanding.”

I think it’s fair to say all parents can agree that parenting in general is tough. So when asked what the biggest challenges Tyler and Kele-Jane face as parents of autistic children, he was very quick to give an honest, heartfelt response, “all the difficulties that you would normally face raising a child just become that much more complicated or overwhelming. But it’s about a million-way tie between:

  • in your darker moments feeling like you are failing them
  • the insurmountable patience you need
  • keeping up with appointments 
  • social challenges – both for them and us
  • not being a hermit in the safe house space (because its easier).”

It’s this combination of pressure parents and family members are under to meet the demands placed on them, and the need to create a sense of safety and structure, that makes Breakaway Retreats just what a family like Tyler’s needs. When it comes to holidays, Tyler and Kele-Jane need to be able to maintain the measures they have in place for their children, “preparation is key. Having a schedule and trying to stick to it as close as possible. Taking familiar things from home really helps.”

When I told Tyler about Breakaway Retreats he agreed it was a perfect option for families to get away, truly relax and make those precious holiday memories, while still providing a secure space. 

Of course, I saved the most important question for Tyler until last; what is the best thing about raising children on the autism spectrum? While the boys’ incredible minds, unique perspectives and sometimes hilarious unfiltered honesty were high on the list, the love they have for each other came out on top. He doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him. 

“Some people have [said] ‘it must be hard because they don’t show love through affection.’ But that’s not true. Once you understand their language they say they love you in so many ways. Once my eldest boy truly feels like he loves you, he does this thing when you leave where he will present his head to you for a kiss on the forehead. It’s not a hug or words, but it means he loves me.”

If you would like to know more about how to book a holiday that accommodates your family’s needs visit Book Now and send the team at Breakaway a message. It might be the first step towards those family holidays you never forget.