We went to a fundraiser on Saturday night for Autism Queensland and it was a great night. I have worked with many children with autism and their families as a child psychiatrist and it can be an extremely challenging condition to manage.
Autism is a condition present from infancy in which sufferrers have problems in three core areas:
- Social skills
- Restricted, repetitive stereotyped behaviours and interests
There is lots of information available on the Autism Queensland website above, and most states in Australia have their own association for information and support. There is good evidence that intensive, early intervention can improve the outcomes for these children, but it is very expensive as they essentially need full time therapy and there is little government funding.
At the ball, Chloe Maxwell spoke. For those of you that don’t know, Chloe is a model who is married to Gold Coast Titans rugby league player Mat Rogers. She spoke very bravely, and well, about the realisation that something was wrong with their son, Max. An interview with her about this can be read here. Mat has two children from a previous relationship and this experience made him concerned about Max, particularly when he compared him to a fellow player’s son at a game, but Chloe freely admits she was in denial. After family members also suggested that they might need to see a doctor, Chloe was very angry with them – but it started things moving and did lead to Max being diagnosed with autism. As she talked, I could not help but put myself in her shoes, as A is only a few months younger than Max was when he was diagnosed. She spoke about the pain if seeing your child look at you like they want to kill you, because they cannot communicate to you how they feel, and you cannot understand your own child. She also spoke of the joy when Max was finally able to say his own name when someone asked him, and to say “I love you mummy.”
Everyone was in tears, and writing this now makes me very emotional again.
Chloe said that Max’s therapy costs $50000 a year, a sum that is out of reach for many people. But early intervention is the most important thing children with autism, and raising funds is incredible important. Chloe and Mat Rogers have a charity to help families of children with autism called 4 ASD kids and I am pleased to put a link to it here.