Jo and Jaz offer a story of hope for parents of young children with autism. Jaz first attended AEIOU at four, with considerable challenges. She’s now 12: a courageous, accomplished and beautiful girl with dreams of a bright future. Jo, Jaz’s mum, shares some of their story.
“Jaz was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at 2 1/2. She wasn’t speaking, eating, sleeping or making eye contact with people, and violent meltdowns were frequent.
I think we’d seen 11 GPs and a psychologist before we saw a paediatrician who diagnosed Jazmine with autism. After that assessment, I didn’t feel like there was a good outlook for Jaz and I didn’t feel very hopeful for the future.
I didn’t know anything about autism and spent my time accessing any information I could. I came across AEIOU and knew that’s where I wanted Jaz to be, so I applied for a place at the Townsville centre in the hope we could get in. We did, so we moved. It was a rocky start moving from Townsville because everything had changed.
Up until I went to AEIOU I wasn’t sure what my parenting approach would be. At AEIOU they had everything in one place, there was consistency, daily. Jaz’s speech improved with her regular environment. The same staff were there and it helped with her emotions. I tried to implement at home what they did at AEIOU, like the Picture Exchange Communication System, and I kept up with additional therapies where I could.
The progress Jaz made in a short period of time at AEIOU was incredible. You can’t beat the intensive therapy that AEIOU provide. Their group learning model motivates them in an environment that where they’re safe to push boundaries. They want to have friends, fit in and belong. AEIOU gave her more courage than she had in a kindy setting.
I knew I couldn’t keep Jaz wrapped in cotton wool and protected from the world; it wouldn’t help her in adulthood. I’ve tried to instil in Jaz that autism is a difference not an excuse or reason. It was important for me to give her exposure to a lot of different environments. Growth occurs this way, coping strategies and with each little trip you make you learn something new.
Jaz has learnt to embrace her differences, sharing freely with other people helps them to understand why she behaves a little differently. She has started to grow up, mature and regulate her emotions. I’ve taught her to be her own advocate.
Jaz’s time at AEIOU changed her destiny. Had we not gone there, I have no idea where we’d be. The foundation for all the good that is happening now were laid there. I’m so grateful she got to go to AEIOU.
Now, Jaz is 12. Jaz is proud of who she is and proud of what makes her different.
Jaz is my hero and one of the most inspirational people I think I will ever know. She’s an accomplished student who has started her first year of high school, which has so far been an amazing experience.
She has embraced change and is loving being able to try new things and make new friends. Alongside riding her bike and exploring Minecraft, she’s found a new hobby as part of the sewing club.
She loves science and swimming and eating – actually, food is Jaz’s life. Most of all, Jaz is determined to journey outside her comfort zone and take on new challenges. In her second week of high school, she attended camp.
Jaz is most looking forward to learning to drive a tractor with her Poppy now. As for when she grows up, she’ll probably do something with cake decorating or science. No matter what she decides, she’ll be great.”
Written with Jo Vella, Jazmine's mum