By Mandy Street, Director at KU Sutherland Preschool

April is Autism Awareness month. Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which affects the brain’s growth and development. It is a lifelong condition, with symptoms that appear in early childhood. The term “Autism Spectrum Disorder” (ASD) includes Autism/Autistic Disorder, Asperger's syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder.

Autism affects around 1 in every 100-110 people and is diagnosed in around four times as many males as females. Autism diagnosis in Australia is on the rise. It is believed that this is due to increased awareness of autism and milder cases of autism being recognised. Early intervention is critical if children are to achieve their fullest potential. Having an autism diagnosis is not a bad thing. It does not make anyone less, but simply different.

Autistic children process their world differently and this is okay. Autism looks different in every person who has it and some have multiple diagnoses that makes life even more challenging for them. Some people with autism can simply be recognised as a little quirky, others are non-verbal. Just as every person or child is different, so is every child who has autism. At KU Sutherland Preschool, autism touches some of our educators’ lives on a personal level. As parents we have navigated our way through our own unique journeys of recognition, assessment, diagnosis, treatment and sadly judgement. During this process we have learnt a few things along the way and we are better educators because of it. But the thing is, we are still learning and we are still fighting to advocate for this sometimes invisible disability.

Sometimes autism does not look like what you may think. Sometimes that child who appears old enough to know better than to scream and throw themselves on the floor at the supermarket does not know better. Sometimes that parent who appears to have no control over their aggressive and hyperactive child at the park is actually just coping, having been up since 4:00am jumping with her son on the trampoline, in the rain, because this is what he needed to stay regulated and calm. She has scratches all over her face because she is his safe place where he can lose control.

Over April at KU Sutherland, we will be sharing stories with the children to help them become more aware of differences amongst themselves, and we will be sharing stories with families. We aim to finish this month with more informed families who may be able to help that mum or dad in the supermarket who is struggling to contain their child, who doesn't jump to conclusions and who recognises that we live in a world where it takes a village to raise a child. Let's be kind to each other and let's help each other out.