Meet Paige and Michelle
“No-one believes my daughter is only 12. She is five foot eight tall and weighs 74kgs. She’s strong and she’s amazing! Paige is non-verbal; she is never going to speak.
She goes to a school where she has access to speech therapy and OT. What keeps her happy and regulated are her six-hour swims on the weekends. Autism is a life-long condition and although she may never speak, she can be part of the community and have fun!
If she is stuck at home, Paige is basically a weapon. She will hurt us or she will hurt herself, and she has many times.
After Paige has been in the community with a support worker, she returns home a different child. She doesn’t hurt her siblings, she doesn’t kick the dog, she doesn’t break glass or slap or bang her head.
Paige was diagnosed with Autism when she was 18 months old. I had a sense that Paige wasn’t neurotypical from early on. My favourite story about my clever little lady, is when she was about five years old, and my husband and I were meeting with an Aspect OT. She had asked us what we hoped to gain from Paige having intensive therapies.
My husband said his greatest wish was that one day Paige would give him a kiss. Paige who had been playing on the floor with her toys, slowly stood up and walked over to me and gave me a big kiss on the lips. We knew then how smart she was, and I am pleased to tell you that she does now kiss my husband too!
It is so important that Paige can access the community. It opens her world. It means she can do the things any other neurotypical 12-year-old girl can do.
She can go to the beach, she can swim, she can run or go to a cafe and eat food without being judged – and she can be supported by people who know how to support her.
Judgement is a barrier for families like ours – It stops us from accessing the community. There has always been lots of judgement and there still is when it comes to Paige. The trouble is that she can be aggressive and lash out. This means she needs 2:1 care and constant supervision.
I have two other children so I can’t take my family to the beach on my own, for example. Paige loves water and she would end up swimming to New Zealand!
Community access also means doing things like going to a carnival. If you had told me two years ago that my daughter would do this, I’d never have believed you. I could barely take Paige to a grocery store without her having a complete meltdown, throwing herself on the floor and taking her clothes off.
Paige did this with the help of her What Ability support workers. I wouldn’t have attempted this outing on my own, but with appropriate support we were able to all go to the carnival together.
My daughter was able to ride on a roller coaster. She lined up and gave her ticket to the collector, and she rode that roller coaster again and again and again. It was a joy to witness.
The experience was also good for her siblings, who often see Paige at her worst. Instead, they saw Paige was happy and could access something all by herself. My children got to see their big sister at her absolute best.
It’s so important that this Foundation comes to fruition because there are so many children who fall through the cracks. They have no support or the confidence to ask for things they are entitled to.
I have learnt that Paige is entitled to do these things. She is entitled to access her community.”