HUNTER Connect is a local charity supporting families touched by Autism.
At their latest meeting, local woman, Lisa Walker, spoke about life with her Autistic husband, Sean.
Sean is no stranger to Autism advocacy and spoke himself recently about being a late-diagnosed Autistic at the age of 42.
Lisa said that it was largely a relationship like any other but as Autistics have a different operating system, she has learned how to work with that and see the many positives as well as the challenges.
Currently attention and resources are mainly directed at children with Autism.
Children become adults though and what support is there available then?
With increased awareness and knowledge amongst the population and our health professionals, we are seeing an increased number of adults seeking a diagnosis.
Often as a result of their children being diagnosed, people are noticing traits in themselves – no surprise as it considered to be largely genetic.
Lisa said that one of the key things is communication and this is where Autistic and Neurotypical (NTs) people differ.
“NTs expect people to know what they mean or imply, whereas Autistic people tend to say what they mean and mean what they say.”
“When they feel misunderstood, it can lead to frustration and in some cases, a meltdown.”
Lisa said that meltdowns have been caused by health professionals not listening or understanding her husband.
“It is key that people listen to Autistics themselves and not talk for them.”
“There can be other triggers to Sean’s meltdowns, such as being too hot and not realising it.”
These sensory issues are common amongst people with Autism and can include regulating body temperature, noise, food sensitivities, lighting, fabrics, touch and crowds.
Lisa has learned how to manage these challenges for Sean through staying calm and supportive, de-briefing after the meltdown and not taking it personally.
A meltdown is the outlet for the sensory overload and reassurance is required not blame.
Sean’s son was diagnosed with Autism and then when he met another adult on the spectrum, everything began to make sense.
Getting the diagnosis allowed him to realise that he wasn’t a bad person, he was Autistic.
He was able to re-evaluate his past and process his life in a new light, giving him validation.
Hunter Connect hold their Port Stephens meeting once a month at 7pm in St Brigids Church Hall in Raymond Terrace.
Check their Facebook page for dates and contact details.
By Sarah STOKES