Casuarina Beach

Photo a day for autism acceptance in April.

Our last day in Darwin. I had to take the boys down to Casaurina Beach. We could see a couple of other people far off in the distance, other than that it was just us.

The two little boys hightailed it towards the water. It was an epic run of about 100 meters, quite a long way when your legs are so short! I was caught between them and L who was not so keen on the water. Still, he made his way towards the gently lapping shore (shoes on!).

At another beach, I may have been more concerned about the boys getting to the water before me, but I knew that the water would not go deeper than their knees for at least another 100 meters. They had a wonderful time jumping the tiny waves, rolling around in the sandy mud and getting themselves truly covered in muck.

Meanwhile L stayed with us, but there was no way he was taking his shoes off or going into the water. Still, he was happy and as the minutes passed, he relaxed more and more.

After a little morning snack & drink we headed over to my brother & sister in law’s house which was close by. We continued the water fun in their shady & cool fresh water pool. Here, L was happier to sit on the side of the pool surrounded by numerous buckets and containers. He spent a happy hour pouring water from one container to the other . All sensory needs met.

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Lost Time

A photo a day for autism acceptance in april

OK, I know…I disappeared. What happened? I went bush!

For the last 4 days I have been incommunicado, with no internet connection. As a part of our holiday, I have taken the boys out to a small Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land where about 1000 people live a mostly traditional lifestyle. It’s accessible only by air or sea for half the year. This half.

So the boys & I hopped onto a little twin engine plane and headed off across the beautiful tropical, lush wetlands of northern Australia to visit some very dear friends who live in Maningrida.

the little plane

the little plane

J, my beautiful big 22m baby was happy just going with the flow as usual. N (3yo chatterbox) was super excited with a million questions about what was happening every step of the way. He had no idea where or what Maningrida was, but he was over the moon to be going. When the steward spoke over the PA system and said that we were heading for Maningrida he couldn’t contain himself and cheered loudly ‘Yayyyyyyy Maningriiiiidaaaaaa!!!’ Everyone on the plane got a chuckle out of that.

L, my autistic 6yo was anxious, but contained. He was concerned during the take off, but willingly held onto me and got some comfort and reassurance from that. Once we were in the air, he was absolutely fine. What a huge achievement for him to be a happy, relatively relaxed traveller.

We had a wonderful time catching up with my friends and their tribe of kids. Mine just melded into theirs and L’s more obvious behaviors settled (pushing, screaming & noisemaking) down quickly as he adjusted to this new environment. Their four kids didn’t even raise an eyebrow, but were interested in him  and in what autism was. So we talked about that a bit, but mostly we just had a very relaxing time. It really was a weekend of autism acceptance.

So, here’s my catch up photos for those four days.

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keeping an eye out for crocodiles

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wrestlemania in Maningrida

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beach combing

theirs & mine
theirs & mine

 

D Town

We are in D Town. I somehow managed to get my three little guys bundled up, onto a 4 hour flight to the northernmost city in Australia, Darwin. We survived the flight fairly well which in itself, is a minor miracle. I was a bit concerned about the levels of anxiety and noisemaking my little 6yo asd boy would experience – but he was brilliant!

I was prepared for apologies to the rows of people in front, behind, beside etc. but instead, I was warmly reassured by several passengers that the boys were doing incredibly well and so was I! Numerous people offered their assistance, especially when it came to disembarking. It’s so reassuring to experience that level of kindness and support from strangers.

kindness od strangers

Being in Darwin always stirs something in me. Each and every member of my immediate family have lived here on and off since 1980. Two of my brothers and their families continue to live here and I have lived here for several years at a time as well. So there is a deep sense of family history, many memories and some wonderful friendships that continue to this day. My little boys are really enjoying connecting with my family up here.

We are here on the tail end of the wet season. It is still very rainy and humid and overcast. Swampy. This is a frontier town, far away from the rest of Australia and more connect in someways to places like Timor, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia who are physically closer. It is the final destination for lots of people who don’t fit in to the mainstream. More than a few criminals on the run make their way up here, plus there are always a few missionaries on the job too. Plenty of work up here for them!

warnings for tourists

warnings for tourists

I took the boys on a little scenic tour on our first day here. It turned out to be a tour of the diggers and heavy machinery (N was extremely pleased) and mosquito infested playgrounds, with lots of jumping in muddy puddles and entire changes of clothes required for each child. But as we drove through the inner suburb of Larrakia a few old memories were triggered.

The very first time I came to Darwin was in 1981 when a friend and I hitched across from the east coast on an epic three day road trip. No real plans, broke, no job or anything connecting me to anywhere, I arrived on my parents newly acquired doorstep.

I got a job pretty quickly and became involved in setting up the first group home for children with complex disabilities in Darwin, Bunyip House. Part of my job was to go around to the various facilities to collect these little kids, whose ages ranged from 3-15 and bring them to their new home.

These kids were all Indigenous and unable to be cared for by their families in their home communities (small townships with extremely limited facilities). So they ended up in Darwin in hospital beds and old age homes. Moving into this home was a huge step forward for them, but you couldn’t help but feel bad for the set of circumstances that had transpired for them to be in these horrible places.

For these kids, who are now in their 30’s and 40’s, life took a dramatic turn for the better. Not only were they participating within their communities: going on family visits, picnics, walks, playgroups etc. but they also had better access to medical and educational supports. And yes, it does seem crazy that a child would have better access to medical support out of a hospital than in, but this is where advocacy and some genuine loving care makes a massive difference.

I worked there for about a year and during this time was able to help families re-connect with their kids in this far more child-focused environment. I was able to take some of the kids home for short trips and got to go to some amazing places including Melville, Goulburn and Croker Islands. Families were also able to come and spend time with their kids when they were in town.

Arnhem Land

Arnhem Land

It was while I was in this job that I had my first experience with autism. As well as being the permanent home for 6 children, we also provided respite care – virtually unheard of back then! On a couple of occasions we cared for a girl who was about 12, non-verbal and with many challenging & aggressive behaviors. For her parents, it was scary and hard to leave her with us, they feared for her safety (she was a runner) and for that of the other kids. Looking back now, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them. It must have also been such a relief to have those days of rest.

Although those who know me may see it differently, I could never have predicted that I would be here, so many years later with a little spectrummy guy of my own. Life can certainly be circular at times.

Coming Soon…
Crocodiles

This one was caught a couple of weeks ago. 4.8 metres

This one was caught a couple of weeks ago. 4.8 metres

Maningrida

see you mob soon!

see you mob soon!