How compass helps to raise a family

When Tina first suspected that her son had a developmental condition and that he was being bullied in primary school for being different, she felt that nobody believed her that he needed help.

“That’s over 20 years ago now. As a mother, I could see that something was amiss, although I didn’t want to believe it myself. He was being mistreated by the other kids and that spurred me to seek help, ultimately moving him to a special school where his life changed for the better – all of our lives did,” Tina recalls.

Tina and her husband now have three grown children and over time they have all been tested for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other conditions. Tina reflects especially on how different each child is, making it constantly challenging to address their needs and maintain routines and a sense of stability for the whole family.

“We really had no idea what to expect or the challenges we’d all face, but the support from the team at Compass has been invaluable on our journey because every day still presents hurdles,” Tina says.

Of their three children, one attends Compass on a regular basis, her daughter Stephanie (Steph).

“My daughter Steph is now 28 and most days, she loves going to Compass. She has changed a lot from being a very anxious child that always clung to me and took a long time to master things like walking and talking. She was diagnosed with autism traits at just two years old by a health nurse, then officially diagnosed by her paediatrician at age three. It’s been a very long road for us all, and for me as the anchor for everyone at home,” Tina says.

“These days Steph has a regular routine of occupational therapy and other support – she is working on learning life skills like making her own meals, because I’m always aware that one day she will be without me and I want her to be more independent and able to care for herself.”

Tina says Steph loves to go to Compass and to work in the café (Compass Garden Café in the Maroochy Bushland Botanical Gardens), see her friends and take part in activities.

“Steph has been going to Compass since 2014 and although it’s quite a distance for me to drive, Compass has made a huge difference to her life, mine too, and our whole family,” says Tina.

“Compass constantly calls to support us and sometimes I don’t even know what to ask, but they anticipate our needs. I often feel alone, as I’m sure many parents do, but the fact that Steph can go to Compass also gives me a break and time with others. Just living daily with a child with autism can be overwhelming at times – Compass understands that.”

Over the years, Tina has tried to be more involved with friends and the community but often felt singled out and excluded due to Steph’s special needs, so she has learned to explain why her child is different and to build bridges for them both.

“If I could offer parents some advice, it would be to simply take life one day at a time and ask for help – it can be hard to do but important for all of you. Understand that everyone with autism is different so being able to adapt and celebrate the little things they can do and how special they can be is the key.

Most of all, I would love for our community to take the time to appreciate that people with autism are just normal people too, with feelings and their own way of thinking and being in the world. Just like you and me. If you just give them a little time, you will see how similar we all are.”