Port Stephens author Sally Stollznow has published her second book to help educate parents and caregivers of the needs of children on the Autistic spectrum

Local author Sally Stollznow writes with a desire to help people cope with challenges

ESTIMATES suggest one in 100 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and 0.08 percent of Australians experience the neuro-developmental condition.

Statistics like this do not, however, encompass the fact those affected by the condition include family members, carers and support workers who work tirelessly, and often invisibly, to understand how to communicate with and create opportunities for those ‘on the spectrum’.

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Sally Stollznow – Port Stephens resident, author and most importantly, a mother – knows this reality as well as anybody.

“Without understanding what was going on, from very early on we got that something about our (child) was different,” says Sally, reflecting on her own journey coming to terms with ASD.

“In some ways my background in Social Work gave me an advantage when it came to actually working towards a diagnosis.

“I had worked a great deal with disadvantaged children, and had learned to recognise a lot of the signs of ASD, and I had something of an idea of where we needed to go,” she said.

In no way did that mean that Sally and her family’s experience was simple, easy or quick.

“From the time we were first referred for speech therapy to the final diagnosis was about a year,” said Sally.

That year, and in the years since, Sally has paid close attention to her child in order to learn how best to interact and communicate in a way that works best with their particular expression of neuro-diversity.

It was during this process that Sally came to realise just how valuable information about ASD was, not just for families of those with the condition, but for teachers, support staff and peers.

It was from these insights that Sally’s book Sid Goes to Kitty Land came into being.

A children’s book written expressly to teach people about how a child with ASD experiences the world and the therapies that can help them cope, Sid Goes to Kitty Land is based on Sally’s own journey with her child, right down to the inclusion of the special ‘Kitty’ companion who acts as a guide that enables young Sid to experience the world in a safe way.

“My child has this stuffed cat that they’ve had since they were four years old and they talk to it and they talk through it,” said Sally.

“It is an extension of themselves.”

Sally observed that as much as her child needed this companion to feel safe encountering the world, other people needed to understand the importance of the companion, and of the unique behaviours that many children with ASD develop.

This is not Sally’s first effort at producing a book that can benefit people in need.

Drawing on her experiences working for various government support agencies Sally was struck by the difficulties families faced in attaining and even maintaining NDIS funding.

“I began to see a trend in families losing their support funding, because the process they have to go through to maintain their payments is actually quite difficult.”

Having experienced this process both as a support worker and then as a carer in need of support, Sally realised that what would be most helpful for families or individuals would be a resource that helps them keep track of all their medical needs and financial status, enabling them to provide assessors with thorough notes that can help to clearly explain all the ways in which support is still necessary.

This personal planner, titled Wellness Through Fortitude, has been made available through Sally’s own website of the same name (www.wellnessthroughfortitude.com.au) as well as through other online retailers such as Amazon, and has received praise not just from clients who have found it invaluable but from other support workers who have appreciated the need for such resources.

Sid Goes to Kitty Land has also been lauded by child psychologists, social workers and schools for the way it effectively and compassionately portrays ASD, and is even being used by one Newcastle-based practitioner to help children understand their own diagnosis.

“It’s been a great reception to the book,” said Sally, reflecting on the past six months, “I’m not in this for money, what I wanted was to create a great resource.”

By Lindsay HALL

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