It seems such a long time ago, sitting in the paediatrician's office and hearing that Daniel had autism. It was news that left a sinking hole in me. I remember walking around outside the hospital desperately trying to come up with a way to help Daniel but knowing there was nothing I could do, knowing all the dreams we had for him were for gone, replaced with uncertainty and an overwhelming desire to protect. Kate, my wife and Daniel's mother just cried, and we didn't speak for two days just because we didn't know what to say. In the coming weeks all we wanted to do was spend every day trying to help Daniel but there was little available and even fewer people to support us. We knew no one else with an autistic child, so we were truly on our own.
We got Daniel into the local Special Education Development Unit which offered 2 hours 1 day per week. They were nice people and did help Daniel but we needed more. We put Daniel's name on the AEIOU waiting list and in November 2008 were asked to have an interview. There are moments in life that are true turning points, Daniel isn't aware yet but this was one for him. That day Daniel did everything possible to show them he was autistic and needed help. All I could do was apologise for his behaviour, but looking back it was the performance that helped, because he was offered a part-time place at AEIOU. This was our turning point, the end of the black hole and the beginning of our journey with a purpose.
From day one it was so different. We were surrounded by people who knew how to help Daniel and had a desire to see him succeed. With this came true compassion and caring for us as a family, and the impact that Daniel's condition had on our lives. We knew where we wanted Daniel to be, this was our best hope for him.
He showed improvements very quickly, but the greatest benefits were seen within Kate and me. We were taught how to manage Daniel's behaviour and at the same time our stresses began to ease. The AEIOU therapists came to our home and spoke to us about Daniel and showed us how to manage those stressful situations. This type of dedication and commitment wasn't the exception for this group, it was the rule.
Kate began meeting with mothers at the centres which transformed her state of mind. Kate had difficulty dealing with the diagnosis and felt alone in her fears. Kate is now surrounded by people who have similar concerns and fears and who she can talk to and share with. I started to attend the fathers groups and realised that as fathers we share the same problems and it was great to offload and have this support.
Daniel started to speak, manage his frustrations and emotions and learnt to communicate through sign and PECS. Daniel loved going to AEIOU and he would get excited when we would pull up outside. The time came for him to transition to mainstream school. It was something we'd been dreading as it meant the big bad world for him. We organised an interview with the local state school and AEIOU was there to help us. They came to every meeting and helped the school and teacher with managing Daniel's transition.
I could write a million words to describe the impact AEIOU has had on Daniel and our lives. Where there was despair is now a feeling of hope. We have different dreams than before, but we have true dreams that Daniel can achieve great things and live a productive, successful life. AEIOU has enabled Daniel to come out of his locked state and become the most amazing young boy with a beautiful personality and cheeky smile. You rarely come across an organisation that truly believes in a cause, and even rarer is a group of individuals who are such amazing, caring and compassionate people, in AEIOU you have both. We owe a debt that can never be repaid. We have made friends for life. We will forever support this organisation and be thankful to those that support them.
Darren and Kate Hassen