JOIN FORCES: Alstonville mum Fiona Johnson, whose son is autistic, and Far North Coast Autism Spectrum Australia manager Jodi Rodgers are celebrating World Autism Awareness Day.
JOIN FORCES: Alstonville mum Fiona Johnson, whose son is autistic, and Far North Coast Autism Spectrum Australia manager Jodi Rodgers are celebrating World Autism Awareness Day. Leah White

Kids with autism work hard to be accepted by community

FOR Fiona Johnson's six-year-old son Hunter, speaking and understanding what people say is like communicating in a second language.

It takes extra time for his brain to translate the words he hears and form a reply.

This is a symptom of his autism spectrum disorder, a condition that was detected when he was two years and three months old.

"Dear Shaz": Vandalised sign goes viral

For the first year after his diagnosis, the family home became somewhat of a haven.

It was often easier to stay at home than venture out to playgrounds or shops where Hunter's behaviour, triggered by anxiety, would sometimes be met with comments and stares.

"You have those few experiences like going to the supermarket and some old man telling you he needs a good smack," Ms Johnson said.

"So that does chip away at you and he does know when people are looking at him."

But Hunter is, without a doubt, one of the coolest kids around. His love of vintage Batman series, Marvel comics and trendy clothes has the makings of a young hipster.

It's a side of him the public doesn't always get to see.

"The kids with autism work so hard every single day to be accepted by society and be part of a community," Ms Johnson said.

"I think it's the community's time to work hard, you know, to employ autistic people and support them."

World Autism Awareness Day

ALTHOUGH there is no one indicator, there are several signs that could suggest autism spectrum disorder.

  • Looks away when you speak to him/her
  • Does not return your smile
  • Lack of interest in other children
  • Often seems to be in his/her own world
  • Lack of ability to imitate simple motor movements like clapping hands
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Not responding to his or her name by 12 months
  • Not pointing or waving by 12 months
  • Loss of words previously used
  • Unusual language pattern, such as repetitive speech.
Austism Spectrum Australia manager Jodi Rodgers took an innovative response to dealing with a tagger who defaced her organisation's sign at Alstonville.
Austism Spectrum Australia manager Jodi Rodgers took an innovative response to dealing with a tagger who defaced her organisation's sign at Alstonville.

Graffitied sign goes viral

WHAT was meant to be a conversation between Autism Spectrum Australia manager Jodi Rodgers and "Shaz", the tagger who spray-painted the not-for profit organisation's sign last Wednesday, has become a hit on social media.

As of this morning (April 2) the photo of the graffitied sign has (across two posts) been seen by about 100,000 people on Facebook. It's been shared more than 600 times, has nearly 2000 likes and scores of people have left comments on the Northern Star's Facebook page.

Ms Rodgers' response encouraged "Shaz" to have a look at some proper street art and "be creative and smart, not destructive and narrow-minded".

Several people have already offered to replace the sign free of charge.


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