By Jackie Maya, OTARC 2014 Honours student
Many mothers with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) report higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression than mothers with typically developing children and those rearing children with other disabilities. But we don’t know which factors contribute to or protect against these negative outcomes. Being from a migrant family, I wondered whether mothers from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds would experience more or less stress, anxiety and depression in reaction to having a child with ASD than Australian mothers. Based on other research, we also thought that different coping skills may influence how mothers react. These are the questions I explored for my Honours project with Dr Kristelle Hudry and Dr Josephine Barbaro at OTARC. We were particularly interested in the reactions and coping skills of mothers whose child had recently been diagnosed with ASD.
By Kristelle Hudry, La Trobe University
Since the condition was first recognised in the 1940s, parents have been and felt blamed for their children’s autism. Today, most people no longer believe this, but a lingering doubt continues to niggle many parents.
By Katherine Crea, Psychologist, OTARC Alumni
During my previous employment at the Australian Psychological Society on the early childhood mental health promotion, prevention, and early intervention initiative, KidsMatter Early Childhood, I developed a keen interest in the well-being of children under school age. I discovered that even during toddlerhood, some children begin to show signs of emotional and behavioral difficulties, including “acting out” difficulties such as aggression, and “holding in” difficulties such as excessive worry and anxiety. Whilst some children “grow out of” these difficulties, around 1 in 2 children do not seem to improve without intervention, and continue to show signs of difficulties when followed up in later years.
By Heather Nuske, OTARC PhD
The way in which people with autism perceive and express emotions has captured my interest and fascination, and I expect this will continue for many years to come. Although there is much that is still to be discovered, from my research and others on this topic, as well as my clinical experience with people with autism, there are a few things we can confidently describe at this stage:
By Dr Josephine Barbaro, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at OTARC and ASD Specialist in Australia’s first Early Assessment Clinic for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Since beginning research on the early identification of Autism Spectrum Disorders back in 2005 as part of my PhD program, the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS), I was often asked “What’s the point of identifying children at 2 years of age or younger if there are very few or no services for them?” You see, back in 2005, there wasn’t the Helping Children with Autism Package for families of children on the spectrum (aged 0 – 7), or intervention programs like the Early Start Denver Model – the first intervention model with strong empirical evidence for its effectiveness in infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with ASDs. So, at this time, many families had to wait on long waiting lists for early intervention services, as long as 18 months in some cases, to receive a few hours a week of services! It was therefore difficult to convince some people, both in the public and private sectors, of the importance of early detection and subsequent intervention.
My daughter has just turned 8 and is severely affected by classic autism. She is non-verbal. Recently she had a fever and her behaviour changed dramatically. She wanted to be held, maintained eye contact for lengthy periods and most incredibly – spoke words very clearly! She said her brother’s name and repeatedly said “Mum”. I have to repeat how incredible this is as she is completely non-verbal. Please somebody research this phenomenon!
By Marita Beard (Heidi’s mum)
The Early Days
I first heard the label autism applied to my youngest daughter when she was 18-months old. We had moved house and it was our first visit to the maternal and child health nurse in our new suburb. She tried to get Heidi to mimic pouring a cup of tea. Heidi sat in the corner, with her back to us and banged the teapot against the wall. After meeting us for all of five minutes she asked, “Have you considered autism?”
When a newborn joins a family we become beguiled by the perfection of this wondrous new being. Any hint of difference is easily overlooked during the early years.