Andrea Werner Autism and the Family Interview
Autism Spectrum Australia's (Aspect) annual comedy night will celebrate its 10th year this August! Australia's comedy greats will come together to raise funds and awareness for people living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Held at Sydney's popular Shangri-La on Thursday 9th August, the Aspect Comedy Night will be the biggest yet with loved comedians, a delicious 2-course meal, drinks and a lot of laughs. The side-splitting talent line-up is yet to be announced, however past guests include Kitty Flanagan, Fiona O' Loughlin, Mikey Robins, Greg Fleet, Wendy Harmer and Peter Berner.
The event is always a sell-out so guests are urged to book early to avoid disappointment by visiting www.autismspectrum.org.au
or calling 02 8977 8381. Tickets are $130 per person, or corporate tables are available for $2,000. All proceeds will go to Aspect, Australia's largest not-for-profit autism-specific service provider. 10th Anniversary Comedy Night
Thursday 9th August, from 6.45pm
$130 per ticket including entertainment, a 2 course meal, petit fours, beer, wine and soft drink or $2000 for a corporate table. www.autismspectrum.org.au
or calling 02 8977 8381.
What does Autism mean to you? www.facebook/AutismSpectrumAustralia
Research shows that autism spectrum disorders affect around one in 100 people and that they are more common in males than females. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which remains largely misunderstood by the community despite its prevalence and far-reaching consequences. Limited social skills and an inability to communicate and interact are the most obvious impairments. Early intervention opens up the best opportunities for progress so that many people with autism can lead productive lives. Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect)
operates a network of eight schools plus more than 92 satellite classes in one of the world's biggest education programs for children with autism. A not-for-profit organisation working in partnership with families and service providers, it offers evidence-based interventions for individual needs. Professionals and families benefit from Autism Spectrum Australia's assessments, early intervention, behaviour support, workshops, volunteer support, and outreach programs. It also offers services for adults with autism. All programs aim to maximise learning potential, participation, and independence by increasing capacity and confidence in communities. Visit www.autismspectrum.org.au
Interview with Andrea Werner
Andrea Werner's is the event organiser of Aspect's 10th Annual Comedy Night and her son, 16-year-old Harry has Autism.Question:
How was your son Autism diagnosed?Andrea Werner
: He was diagnosed at three years of age. Prior to this Harry underwent 18 months of early intervention activity involving speech therapy, paediatric psychologist's assessment and an Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) early intervention program, after which it was recommended that he have a formal diagnosis.Question:
Before the diagnoses did you notice any differences in your child's ability to communicate?Andrea Werner
: Absolutely. Harry was completely silent yet he had perfect hearing. He would not cry, seldom laughed and was very self-contained. When I grew suspicious that there was something not quite right, I realised that he never called out in the morning when he woke up. So one morning I left him in his cot to see how long it would take for him to call out or cry. He woke-up at 7am and when I went in at 9am he still hadn't made any attempts to call-out and he wasn't even upset.
Also, because Harry is my second child I knew it was very strange that he never asked for anything or wanted my attention like I had experienced with my first child at that age.Question:
What are the main difficulties your son has?Andrea Werner
: Harry's main difficulties are with his speech, his social skills and understanding the social cues that people use to manage their way through everyday life. He also has some sound sensitivity so loud and noisy settings can sometimes be stressful for him. When he was younger he was very set in his ways and had to have a strict routine. All changes had to be flagged well in advance and explained clearly. As he has gotten older he has learnt to be a little more flexible but still thrives on a routine and knowing exactly what is going to happen.Question:
What treatment does your son require?Andrea Werner
: Harry has ongoing speech therapy, social skills training and occupational therapy with his school. As he is approaching Year 12 we are also preparing him for life after school - life skills like handling and understanding money, independent travel on public transport and preparing for some meaningful work in the general community.Question:
Does your son treatment differ?Andrea Werner
: Harry is now getting more general disability services but in the past we have used service providers who specialised in autism with speech therapy, occupational therapy, play therapy and social skills training.Question:
Can you talk about your son schooling (in the future or current)? Andrea Werner
: Harry has been very fortunate to have received an excellent education program with Aspect. He attended an Aspect program as well as a mainstream preschool before moving into the Aspect Vern Barnett School at Forestville.
After this he attended Aspect Satellite classes which are autism specific classes within a mainstream school, so the kids get the benefit of the specialised teaching in the classroom yet still interact with terrific role models in the mainstream playground, through sports etc.
Harry now attends St Edmunds High School which specialises for students with intellectual and other disabilities from grades 7-12.Question:
How does Autism affect your son everyday life?Andrea Werner
: As well as autism Harry has a moderate intellectual disability so this impacts on all areas of his life. Socially he is mostly affected by his delayed language and inability to see all the social cues required to be independent. He needs a lot of support to keep his social life expanding as even though he is very keen to have friends and be social he does not know how to go about it and be proactive.Question:
How does your son's autism affect your family's everyday life?Andrea Werner
: We are very fortunate that Harry is able to cope with most situations or has been taught skills to cope with things he finds stressful. For example in noisy places he has learnt to just listen to his iPod and ignore the noise. As our kids are growing up however, and the others are gaining independence, it becomes more apparent that we will have to care for Harry in some capacity well into the future.Question:
Prior to the diagnoses, were you aware of Autism? Andrea Werner
: Only a little, and mainly through movies such as Rainman.Question:
What support is provided for you and your family? Andrea Werner
: Over the years, Aspect has provided an early intervention service, schools and counselling for Harry. Their consistent support and range of services has meant that we have always felt that we knew what we needed to do, and how to go about it.
Aspect has also been amazing in providing support for our two daughters with the sibling programs, and for Peter and I in providing somewhere for us to turn to talk to other parents who are a little ahead of us on this journey. Now as we start life after school, we know Aspect will have people we can go to for ongoing advice and direction.Question:
What are your hopes for the future?Andrea Werner
: We hope that Harry becomes an independent adult and a fully contributing member of society. We hope he has friends, is able to go and do the things he loves and overall - has a happy and fulfilling life.Question:
Is there a family history of Autism?Andrea Werner
Interview by Brooke Hunter