Guest speaker aims to raise awareness of autism

SUPPORT: Julie Dunmill, Rebecca Combe and son Josiah, Sarah Voisey and daughter Zariah, Vanessa Sonnberger, Bret Sonnberger, Astra Macumber, Sarah Hadzig and Rachel Kemp celebrate National Autism Awareness Day.
SUPPORT: Julie Dunmill, Rebecca Combe and son Josiah, Sarah Voisey and daughter Zariah, Vanessa Sonnberger, Bret Sonnberger, Astra Macumber, Sarah Hadzig and Rachel Kemp celebrate National Autism Awareness Day.

UNITING Wimmera’s Strengthening Parent Support Program will celebrate National Autism Awareness month during April.

Wimmera Autism Support Group, facilitated by Uniting Wimmera, will host speaker Emma Donaldson.

Ms Donaldson is an academic from Torrens University with a background in disability, mental health and inclusion. She will lead a discussion titled, “Person first approach, exploration before solution” on Wednesday from 1pm at the Horsham College auditorium.

Uniting Wimmera’s strengthening support co-ordinator Julie Dunmill said Ms Donaldson was named as a state finalist in the Telstra Women’s Business Awards for her work in the disability sector. She also received a DEDA Leadership award during her business study.

“Emma will be talking about how we should step into the shoe of the person with autism, to better understand their daily needs, rather than jump straight into solution mode,” Ms Dunmill said. 

There will be opportunities for parents and guardians to share their stories, experiences and challenges of raising a child on the spectrum.

Ms Dunmill also welcomed people caring for a child with autism to join the Autism Support Group.

“Our group meets monthly and includes parents, carers or guardians of children or young people with autism, or in the process of getting a diagnosis of autism. Our support meetings are usually held once a month over lunch at a local café in Horsham,” she said. 

“Parents and caregivers are able to share each other’s experiences, concerns, challenges and joys of raising children with autism and offer mutual support in a friendly relaxed atmosphere.

“Some of our members feel that people in the community, including some of their own family members and friends, simply don’t understand autism and their child’s challenging behavior.

“Children with autism can be often viewed by as ‘naughty’ and many people don’t understand the reasons behind their behavior, such as being overstimulated by noise.” 

Ms Dunmill said people wanting to attend Wednesday’s presentation could register by phoning her on 0427 633 458 or email JulieD@vt.uniting.org 

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