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9Honey: Louise wasn’t worried about her son’s symptoms until eight words ‘hit her in the heart like a tonne of bricks’

Louise Wall, spoke to 9Honey about her journey to find suitable life-changing support for her autistic son, Ethan.

Louise and Georgia pushing Ethan and his brother on bikes

When Louise Wall noticed her toddler Ethan couldn’t sit still long enough to play, she assumed he was just a “very busy little boy”.

But when he could only say a few words by age two, and rarely made eye contact, the Ballarat mum started to worry.

Ethan was her first child and she didn’t know what was ‘normal’ for a kid his age, so she confided in a friend.

“I remember the day like it was yesterday. She said, ‘Do you think maybe he could be autistic?'” the Ballarat mum tells 9honey.

Pushing through her shock, she researched autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and started seeing the signs she’d missed.

Ethan was diagnosed with level 3 autism in 2019, just one month shy of his third birthday.

He’s preverbal, making it unlikely he’ll ever communicate verbally, and will need support for the rest of his life. It wasn’t the news Louise was hoping for.

“The official diagnosis was hard to hear even when I knew it was coming,” she admits.

“It was then I realised that life for Ethan was going to be a very difficult and different journey. Life as I knew it was never going to be the same again.”

Navigating the NDIS after Ethan’s official diagnosis was hard and Louise’s days revolved around medical appointments and bouts of crying.

“Life as I knew it was never going to be the same again.”

Ethan requires one-on-one support with daily activities like showering, dressing, toileting, eating, so keeping him safe and happy takes serious work.

Louise struggled to adapt to their new normal, especially when he was diagnosed with an intellectual disability shortly after starting school.

The family reached breaking point in 2021, when Louise welcomed her second son, Alex.

Suddenly, she was afraid. How would she support Ethan and care for a newborn?

“What if I was unable to keep my children safe?” Louise worried.

“There have been times that I have felt completely overwhelmed and unable to do this.”

She needed help, but where do you turn for specialised disability support in Ballarat?

Support workers are hard to find in regional areas and Louise was nervous about employing a total stranger.

Then she found Carer Solutions, Australia’s only service that allows people to directly employ support workers they know and trust.

“I had no idea where to begin, so I spoke to a colleague at the Specialist School and she was quick to say, ‘Have my support worker Georgia, she’s fabulous,'” Louise says.

Through Carer Solutions’ Direct Employ service, Georgia came on as Ethan’s dedicated support worker and changed everything for the Wall family.

“Ethan and I couldn’t be without her, he loves her, and the feelings are mutual,” Louise says.

“I truly believe that Ethan would never reach some of his everyday living goals without her.”

With Georgia around, Louise could focus on Alex while he was a newborn without having to also manage Ethan’s needs 24/7.

Carer Solutions takes care of all the employer admin, like paying Georgia and managing tax and compliance requirements, so Louise can focus on being a mum.

Now Georgia helps with everything from home life, to Ethan’s school run, appointments, and family outings.

“There is an element of isolation that comes with having a child with autism. Sometimes you just can’t go to some social events or you may have to leave early,” Louise admits.

“Ethan often doesn’t want to do some things or be somewhere, which can result in full meltdowns.”

That’s when Louise needs Georgia most, and she can’t imagine life without her support now – especially since Ethan was recently diagnosed with ADHD as well.

Reliable disability support is hard to access in regional areas like Ballarat, so having Carer Solutions in her corner is a huge relief for Louise.

“Aussie kids in regional towns have access to more resources now than ever before, but there’s still a need for more. Finding suitable support workers can be a challenge,” she says.

“Being able to choose who comes into your home and supports your child is a gamechanger.”

They still have to jump through NDIS hoops and put up with long wait times for vital services like occupational therapy, speech therapy, and behaviour therapy.

Ethan, now seven, was waitlisted for music therapy for two years, which Louise sees as proof that there’s still a lot of work to be done for kids with disabilities in regional Australia.

“We need to continue to educate people about people with both intellectual and physical disabilities to create more accessible spaces in the communities,” she says.

“We all need to continue to advocate for those people we know need the extra support, and continue to ask hard and uncomfortable questions.”

Published 9Honey | MARCH 2024 | 

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