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Geelong Advertiser: Elizabeth Anders speaks out during Autism Awareness Month

Carer Solutions Partner, Elizabeth Anders and her three kids all have autism and ADHD, and she has a message about how others view autistic people.

Elizabeth and Oliver

Elizabeth Anders does not see autism as a deficit.

The Waurn Ponds single mum and her three kids are all autistic and have ADHD.

“I get quite upset when people think autism means there’s something wrong… your brain just works differently.”

April is Autism Awareness Month.

Autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment, according to Autism Spectrum Australia.

Ms Anders and her children Oliver, Ciaran, and Niamh, now aged 21, 18 and 16, were all diagnosed with autism about 13 years ago.

When they were young, all three children exhibited echolalia – the unsolicited repetition of utterances made by others – and other behavioural differences.

Ms Anders said throughout her life she’d felt “weird”.

“When the kids were going through their diagnoses, the diagnostician said do you think it might be a good idea to get yourself diagnosed as well,” she said.

“It wasn’t a surprise really.”

The diagnosis was a relief, and retrospectively helped her make sense of aspects of her life, she said.

The boys were diagnosed with ADHD around the same time as autism, while for Ms Anders and her daughter the news was more recent.

“It’s meant we’ve had access to life-changing medication,” Ms Anders said.

“Our lifestyle choices are possibly quite different to neurotypical families.

“It’s a lot less authoritarian.

“There are different kinds of expectations – I’m aware different things can trigger the kids.”

Ms Anders also has chronic pain and mobility issues.

Ms Anders, who is involved with advocacy for unpaid carers, said juggling four NDIS plans was a “full-time job”.

She said her kids hated change and had felt terribly let down when support workers frequently changed.

“I don’t think people realise lots of autistic people feel really let down when people leave,” she said.

She used Carer Solutions’ ‘direct employ’ model to hire support worker Sebastian.

Sebastian previously helped the family when he worked with another agency, and when he wanted to leave, Ms Anders was able to directly hire him.

The ‘direct employ’ model means Carer Solutions is not the employer but takes care of matters including back-end checks and admin.

“He’s committed to the overall wellbeing of the family,” Ms Anders said.

Carer Solutions founder Jane Morrell said consistency was important for both clients and support workers.

“With that comes a really strong connection,” she said.

Ciaran has just been appointed to a leadership role at his school, Oliver is doing work experience at an art gallery and Niamh is very interested in guinea pigs and graphic design.

Ms Anders is “absolutely” proud of the trio.

She said she felt many community members wanted neurodiverse people to fit in with them.

“My hope for the future is people with a range of different abilities are recognised as all having something individual and particular to offer,” she said.

“Embracing neurodiversity can only be a good thing for everyone.

“We need neurotypical people to help us communicate (our ideas).”

Published Geelong Advertiser | Herald Sun | Daily Telegraph | The Courier Mail| APR 9, 2023