So much has changed since last Christmas for the Deuble family. They’ve moved to Brisbane from Sydney to give their first-born son the greatest gift possible – early intervention. Looking back, they have so much to be thankful for. New friendships, a wide support network of people who just ‘get it’, and a beautiful boy who has blossomed into a social butterfly. It’s more than they could have ever dared to dream for. And this journey started with an article clipped from a local newspaper by a devoted great-grandmother. It’s something mum-of-two Lauren will always be grateful for.
“We have two beautiful boys – Theodore, 4, and Max, 2. They’re the best of buds and my husband Josh and I absolutely adore them. Theodore was the child we never thought possible, after being told we might not be able to fall pregnant.
Having never been around other children (or adults, for that matter) with autism, we didn't see the signs until a couple of family members gently drew our attention to his lack of eye contact and words. He also stimmed a lot, flapping his hands and banging his ears. After Theodore’s diagnosis, we felt overwhelmed with the information overload and lost in a world unknown to us.
My Granny was always telling me about the beautiful stories she'd read about other children with autism, but we felt like Theodore needed so much more support than we could find in New South Wales. During a brief visit to see family in Brisbane, Granny handed me a little article that she'd seen in her local newspaper about a centre called AEIOU. I had never heard of it and was intrigued by what I read. I decided to call AEIOU and find out more. What could it hurt, I thought. Little did I know that phone call would change our life.
AEIOU is one of the best things that's ever happened to our little family. During his first weeks, we were quite surprised by how quickly Theodore transitioned into the program. He had never attended therapy for more than two hours a week, and I feared that this would be far too much for him. How wrong I was! I was so surprised that within a couple of days he was dragging me out of the house to take him to AEIOU!
During these early days, Theodore struggled a lot with his language and connecting with others. He battled with transitions between day-to-day activities. He wasn't toilet trained, or able to regulate his emotions. He had frequent meltdowns as a result of all this.
But less than a year later, he is talking constantly. He is a social butterfly, who loves going to AEIOU to see his amazing group of friends. He is toilet trained and has learned how to express when something is bothering him. He also no longer stims. The old Theodore would always repeat what we would say, not asking questions for himself. But he is now one of the most inquisitive and curious little kids we know, constantly asking questions and exploring his environment. My husband and I feel so much more peace within our family and confident about spending time out together. We can do shopping trips as a whole family now, and even go swimming.
We just adore the staff at AEIOU- this was one of our first and most lasting impressions. We have been able to talk to them about a multitude of things, ask them countless questions and see lots of progress at home and in the community as a result of their hard work and dedication to our child.
And almost above all, we love the community AEIOU has welcomed us into! Coming from a place where we didn't know anyone with a child with autism, we felt so isolated. But now, I have made the most amazing friends. We understand each other's struggles, give love and support where possible and are in constant contact. We catch up regularly, have playdates, parties and so much fun! I know in my heart that these parents are going to be in my life for the long haul. I think it's so important to feel like you aren't walking this path alone.
We often reflect on life B.A. (before AEIOU) and can't wrap our heads around how far Theodore has come. Without AEIOU, we truly believe Theodore would still be struggling socially, having a really tough time with his expressive and receptive language, and that we would be living with constant meltdowns. When you've lived through the sadness and difficulty of not knowing how to help your child, it's a horrible feeling. There are no words. Even in myself, I feel like a happier mum, because AEIOU has equipped both Theodore and our family with the tools to help him with his future.
We are still pinching ourselves at the realisation Theodore will be able to go to school in 2020. We had no idea that he would come so far so quickly! I think we can all expect to see him adjusting to life in school, making new friends and adapting to the world around him with more ease and less hesitation. He has so much to offer and so much to learn. We hope he will embrace this life with all he’s got.
And to think, it all started with a little newspaper clipping handed to me in a moment of need. It goes to show, it’s always the right time to spread the word. You never know who's lives you could change. Next Christmas, it could be another family just like mine.”
By Lauren Deuble