LIKE many mums, Mornington’s Michelle Bendell held her breath when her son Sidney started school this year. And just like thousands of parents, she was anxious – but hopeful – that education would give her son the chance to grow, learn, make friends and become independent.
But, without the early learning intervention that was provided to her son, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, that first day at a mainstream school may never have happened.
Ms Bendell and her husband Justin realised as soon as their son was diagnosed that early intervention was the key to helping the family deal with the challenges ahead, and the best way for Sidney to get the specialist help he needed.
While meeting the costs of intensive one-on-one therapy and ongoing support has not been easy, the couple agree that every cent of it has been necessary to help Sidney develop into the happy student he is today – able to communicate, learn and connect.
Ms Bendell is organising a gala evening in Mornington to raise awareness of autism and fund programs for Abacus Early Intervention Centre, the state’s first non-for-profit specialist Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy centre, on Saturday 22 October.
She said her son had developed the communication and adaptive living skills he needed to be able to continue his education at school after being at the centre for two years.
The early intervention programs at Abacus supported Sidney with essential learning skills, such as verbal and non-verbal communication, toileting, motor skills, listening and socialising.
“Without that help early on Sidney would not be succeeding in a mainstream school like he is today,” she said.
“We have seen such a dramatic change in his speech, concentration and overall demeanour.
“Sidney now has many friends who think that he is pretty cool, is learning more words and sentences every day, and, most of all, is a very loving and happy little man.”
Ms Bendell said parents have travelled from all over Melbourne and Victoria since the service started eight years ago to access the programs.
She said her son’s future was no longer uncertain. “Every day in the minutest of ways, Abacus is changing not just Sidney’s life, but ours as a family.”
This year’s gala theme is ‘A Night Out in Monte Carlo’.
Ms Bendell said she hoped organisations and individuals would get behind the gala event, which would be an “uplifting” occasion.
“It’s important to never stop believing that these children will have the brightest future ahead of them”.
Details: Michelle on 0403 867987 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
See website www.abacuslearning.org.au for further details and a link for tickets.