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Xander wasn’t even 2 years old when his parents, Veronique and Andrew, noticed something wasn’t quite right. He wasn’t an unhappy child by any means, but there were behaviours that started to stand out as being different to other children.
Xander wasn’t engaged, he wanted to play by himself a lot, and he had some repetitive behaviours – he would open and close doors and push buttons and levers. He was socially interested and trying to talk, but his speech was behind and he also couldn’t do things with his hands that other children could do.
“Something wasn’t quite right but we didn’t know exactly what it was” Veronique said, “as luck would have it, someone at his day-care said to us that it might be autism and perhaps we should have him looked at”.
Things took a turn for the worse; Veronique and Andrew started to see some aggressive behaviour creep into their little boy’s life. As they went through the autism diagnosis process, and watched other children develop at the normal rate, Xander just wasn’t developing.
“The aggression was getting out of control”, recalls Xander’s mum, Veronique “he was biting, scratching, hitting, kicking – those sorts of things got really bad – to the point where I felt like an abuse victim and that was a terrible thing for me to feel with my own child”.
Veronique remembers coming to Xander’s first session at Irabina, she was in tears because she didn’t know how to handle Xander’s behaviour anymore. Their Irabina support worker reassured Veronique that they were going to get the help they needed and were going to help the family get through this.
Since coming to Irabina just over a year ago, Xander has been involved in a group therapy program called GLaD (Global Learning & Development Program) which is developed and staffed by a team that includes a specialist teacher, behavioural therapist, psychologist, occupational therapist and speech therapist. He’s also doing individual sessions for speech and occupational therapy and Veronique has participated in Irabina’s behaviour management training for parents.
“At Irabina, everybody talks to each other and that works really well. It is a holistic approach and we don’t need to go anywhere else because Irabina has everything that we need and everyone works together so it is a fully integrated program” – Veronique
After just over a year of attending sessions at Irabina, Xander is a much happier child. He’s socially engaged, knows how to play with other children, is rarely aggressive and attends mainstream kindergarten – something his parents didn’t imagine would be possible at this stage!
“He is amazing – I feel like I can see the real Xander now” – Veronique
“Xander used to have anywhere between 2-5 really violent tantrums a day, that’s what we were facing. He now still has the odd tantrum, but the violence has gone almost completely. We know how to help manage him, we know what our options are for dealing with it now, and what the tools are – and so does Xander. He doesn’t need us to intervene all the time now because he’s got the skills to do it.
He’s a much happier kid and we’re a much happier family. For the first time since his diagnosis we can think about things other than his autism. There’s space in our lives for other things, we can go to the beach or we can go on playdates or do the normal things that normal families do with their kids – because his capability and confidence has increased, but so has ours and our ability to manage situations”, says Veronique.
“Irabina has been life-changing for us. I can’t thank them enough” – Veronique
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