Having a 12 year old autistic son, Amanda Russell of Parkes knows first hand what a difference carers make.
This week is Carers Week and House With No Steps (HWNS) is taking the opportunity to raise community awareness about the diversity of carers and their caring roles.
Amanda is a full time carer for her young son Alex, who after many years of doctors and specialists visits, was diagnosed with Autism and ADHD at the age of four.
“When Alex was a baby he was different, we just knew he was different,” Amanda said.
“There was something about him, he didn’t like to be cuddled, he didn’t like attention, and we found we couldn’t hold him or settle him like other babies. It was heartbreaking to know I couldn’t comfort my child.”
Although the initial diagnosis was somewhat of a shock, Amanda found relief in finally receiving the correct diagnoses and started developing the tools to help Alex.
“We did a lot of research and tried many different things,” she said.
“Some worked, some didn’t. But we didn’t give up. We looked for support groups to help us better understand Alex, but being in a regional area it was hard to find very much - it was so frustrating.”
After being introduced to a program run by the House With No Steps in Forbes, Amanda found the support not only for Alex, but for her husband and herself.
Although they both resisted the offer of respite initially, after the first weekend, Amanda realised the benefit it provides to her whole family.
“When Alex first started going, most weekends I would climb back into bed and just sleep for hours - I was so exhausted from trying to juggle so many different balls in the air,” Amanda said.
“But as time went on, I gained the time and strength to focus not only on my other children but also my husband.
“Sean and I would actually get some time together as husband and wife. The statistics of relationship break ups for families of children with Autism is astounding.
“I can honestly say without respite, I don’t know that Sean and I would have made it. We weren’t able to get any time to ourselves to be Sean and Amanda, not just mum and dad.”
HWNS works closely with not only individuals living with disability, but also their carers who most often are family members.
The organisation understands first hand how people can not only find themselves unexpectedly in the position of being a carer, but the enormous contribution they make to the people they care for and the Australian community, often at the expense of other relationships and their own self care.
HWNS supports the 2.8 million Australians that are unpaid carers and greatly appreciate the $60.3 billion dollars they save the community each year through their tireless work, sacrifice and love.