By Nikki Towill

There are currently 1 in 70 Australians on the autism spectrum, with inclusivity in the autism community still low.

Autism presents differently for every person diagnosed. It’s a ‘spectrum’ of experience, which can cause difficulty in social interaction, restricted or repetitive patterns of behaviour and impaired communication skills.

My thirteen-year-old daughter, Savannah, is one of the 353,880 Australians on the autism spectrum.

When Savannah was four we started to look for reasons for her differences, and at six years old, she received her diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. For Savannah, this means she is very quiet and takes a long time to respond.

She looks lost and confused while processing information and can get lost easily as she cannot recall directions, places or faces sometimes. She can also get angry with change and is very ridged on things like foods and how things should be done.

From my own experiences with my sister’s disabilities and having worked for families with autism and other disabilities through Northern Beaches Interchange, my partner and I knew to take Savannah for official diagnosis so we could look for the right support.

Life can be challenging as a mother of children with special needs, with my other kids experiencing conditions such as ADHD and anxiety. Some of the challenges in raising children with ADHD and anxiety is that they are very active, loud and argumentative, often experiencing impulsive behaviours that can be dangerous.

It also takes a lot of understanding because my child with anxiety likes to know the steps and reasoning. However, we know all three children love each other very much. They look out for each other and hold each other accountable which builds resilience that translates into the real world.

Nikki’s 13-year-old daughter, Savannah is one of the 353,880 Australians on the autism spectrum.

No day or child with special needs is the same. That’s why finding the right support is crucial. I’m using the two-sided community, Mable, to match with independent support workers to help me with the kids and around the house since 2017.

An extra pair of hands gives Savannah and her siblings the support they need, especially as they grow older, while enabling me to remain in the ‘mum’ role instead of a ‘carer’ role – which is worth its weight in gold. Our independent support workers have established predictable routines and clear communication with my family, which helps me balance the kids’ different schedules.

Because of our network of trust with Savannah’s support workers, I feel comfortable leaving her with them to play and help her with her school work, domestic support and social skills. The extra support keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and gives me a little me time to focus on my health and wellbeing.

With her eldest daughter on the autism spectrum and her other children experiencing ADHD and anxiety, Nikki says”life can be challenging as a mother of children with special needs”.

Because of our network of trust with Savannah’s support workers, I feel comfortable leaving her with them to play and help her with her school work, domestic support and social skills. The extra support keeps me from feeling overwhelmed and gives me a little me time to focus on my health and wellbeing.

Despite the unique challenges we face raising children with autism and disability, Savannah and her siblings bring an incredible amount of joy into my life, and I learn so much from them every single day.

April is Autism Awareness Month which is an important opportunity to break stigmas and increase inclusion and education within the community. Autism is one of the most common disabilities experienced on the Mable platform, with over 27 per cent of job posts seeking autism support. To find out more, visit Mable.