Autistic awareness is the key

2018-04-03 06:02
PHOTO: SuppliedIsabella Berrington, the bubbly six-year-old lives with autism

PHOTO: SuppliedIsabella Berrington, the bubbly six-year-old lives with autism

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RAISING a child with autism has many daily challenges, but for Upper Highway mom Christelle Berrington it has become a way of life, as her daughter Isabella was diagnosed with Autism in 2015.

“It is hard work raising gifted children,” said Berrington. She explained that Isabella’s Grade 00 teacher found it impossible to connect with her and recommended a play therapist, who also wasn’t successful in connecting with her.

“It was recommended that I take her to a Paediatric Neurologist at the age of five and an autism diagnostic observation was conducted with two assessments.

It turned out that Isabella was a classic text book case and ticked all the boxes,” said Berrington.

After confirming that her daughter is autistic, Berrington said she was glad that there was a term for it.

“Her dad has Tourette’s Syndrome so in a way I was glad that it wasn’t that, but it was no consolation. They are both equally hard to deal with. I am also glad that I had a wonderful support system, from her teachers, family and therapists.” She said Isabella can only visit close friends who understand her. “Family visits and sleepovers have been a bit tough as she has no filter. She says something which might be hurtful to others, but in her own way she is being honest.”

Isabella’s mother said they have daily issues with sensory, social and communication problems, but they take it one day at a time.

However when people hear the word autism they think of a child that is withdrawn and cannot communicate nor connect with.

“Isabella was completely the opposite - she was different and obviously they thought it was a wrong diagnosis, but as soon as I explained the ‘other side of the spectrum’ they agreed with me. To this day I still get told, there is no way that she can be autistic,” said the mother. Berrington said she would not have known that her daughter is autistic as she was not aware of it before until the doctor gave her a diagnosis. “I wouldn’t have known even if it was there because she’s always been a bit gifted in her own way and I would never have put it down to autism.”

She said whenever there’s a meltdown, people say it’s a tantrum. “My daughter’s condition has caused many tears, but I have learnt that I don’t owe anybody an explanation. My first priority is to deal with my child,” said Berrington.

“An incident I can share with you was when I went to a birthday party in 2016. At the party one of the games was pass the parcel. I did get to explain the rules of the game to her in time. The parcel never got to her and she never got a chance to take a layer off the parcel.

“Eventually she was so overwrought she stormed off and had an absolute meltdown. It was the first party of the year and initially I said we wouldn’t attend any more, but after thinking about it I realised that keeping her from it is even worse. She has to learn how to deal with these ‘unexpected things’ at some stage.” Berrington added that she wishes that there was more awareness about autism especially the other side of the spectrum known as ‘high functioning borderline Asperger’. “You never know the journey that a child is going through and the battles that they are fighting daily just to conform to society. We look for acceptance every day and people should not be easy to judge.”

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