Lifestyle

A reason to celebrate at ASD big birthday bash

Jackson,9, and Lachlan,7, with their parents Fergus and Lee Ponder.
Jackson,9, and Lachlan,7, with their parents Fergus and Lee Ponder. Warren Lynam

JACKSON Ponder is nine years old, but he has never played pass-the-parcel.

Party hats, balloons and lolly bags have never been part of his weekend fun, because he has never been invited to a birthday party.

He has watched invitations being passed around the classroom, with nothing left in the bag for him.

This is all because Jackson has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The stigma associated with the incurable disorder leaves many families isolated, judged and children left out of friendship circles.

There are 300 families in the Sunshine Coast ASD Support Group, with children on varying levels of the scale.

The children had a taste of party frivolities when the group hosted their very own "birthday party" at Top Shots last weekend.

For Jackson it was a welcome change from lunchtimes usually spent alone.

Jackson was diagnosed with high functioning ASD in December 2011.

His mother Lee said it was the high function cases which were commonly missed.

A prevalence study by the Australia Advisory Board on ASD in 2007 found one in 160 Australian children aged between six and 12 years was diagnosed with ASD.

It was a long journey before Jackson was diagnosed.

"Time after time I was in tears because sometimes Jackson would have hours of meltdowns yet the paediatricians couldn't explain it because sitting in front of them was a well articulated boy who can talk on an adult level," Mrs Ponder said.

Jackson has difficulties in social situations and lacks empathy, he can't recognise emotions and often misreads situations.

Jackson was first diagnosed with fine motor dyspraxia at a young age.

The disorder impairs the organisation of movement and affects perception, language and thought.

Jackson has trouble handling scissors, brushing his teeth or tying shoe laces.

"It was a long haul to get the ASD diagnosis and took about eight months of specialists asking questions for me to see," Mrs Ponder said.

"Does he line things up? Yes.

"Does he have food issues? Yes.

"It was a relief to have the diagnosis but I liken it to when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, it's a definite sense of loss and changes the way you perceive the future to be but it is also a sense of relief that you can move forward."

Jackson has a common trait of an autistic child - he is gifted.

While he struggles with motor skills, he has superior working memory.

His passion is computers.

Jackson has attended four different Sunshine Coast mainstream schools to find one that suited him.

While he is age appropriate for Year 3, he has been accelerated into Year 4 and there is talk of him starting an IT TAFE course next year online.

Despite this, Mrs Ponder said a day at school was difficult for Jackson.

"During a typical day at school Jackson was disruptive in the classroom, not naughty just disruptive," she said.

"It was horrible, he has not coped in the classroom and that is hard to see as a mother.

"On the way to the car the meltdowns start. He usually holds it together until school is done and lets it all out at the end."

Jackson has a laptop for use in the classroom fulltime.

"Any work a child would normally write, he can do on the laptop," Mrs Ponder said.

"He uses the computer during breaks and lunchtime as well, while most kids do handball or play soccer, for him facing that is not a break, it is work.

"He finds mateship very difficult, but what the computer enables him to do is people are noticing and coming up to him to look at his computer so that has become an avenue for Jackson to reach out."

Mrs Ponder said there was still little community awareness on ASD.

"I noticed this year that my younger son Lockie at age six was being invited to party after party when Jack wasn't getting invited to any and it hurt," Mrs Ponder said.

"One mother on our Facebook page said she tried to host a party and invited the whole class and no one came.

"So that's when we came up with the idea of the Top Shots party.

"There were some meltdowns, but there wasn't one family there who hadn't seen it before."

Mrs Ponders said support groups were key for parents of autistic children to connect and share advice.

Jackson's gifted diagnosis prompted Mrs Ponder to start the Twice Exceptional support group for gifted children with learning difficulties.

"There needs to be more awareness. There are single mums in our group to married couples who are in dire situations and need immediate respite and can't get it," Mrs Ponder said.

"When Jackson was diagnosed I've looked more into the disorder and I never realised until now the extent of the issues, and how many people have financial, social, and emotional trauma from an ASD diagnosis."

 

>> To read more lifestyle stories

Topics:  autism birthday children community health lifestyle



Foodies' scavenger hunt: are you up for it?

IF YOU want to give your tastebuds the flavour sensations of a lifetime, here is the ultimate foodie’s scavenger hunt through Brisbane.

5 minutes with Israel Folau on footy, life and love

Israel Folau and Silver Fern netballer Maria Tutaia announced their engagement last last year.

WE CAUGHT up with football star and Brisbane ex-pat Israel Folau.

10 reasons to head to South Bank this summer

Head to the only inner-city beach in Australia!

South Bank has a ridiculous amount of fun things to do.

Five mammoth events you need in your life

No Caption

BRISBANE isn’t known for doing things by halves…

How to make your child's every dream come true...

Take a dip at South Bank in the inner-city beach.

‘I DON’T want to do fun things, Mum and Dad’… said no child ever!

How to do Eat Street the right way

Know where to start and where to end to avoid a huge food coma before you get to experience all the goodies!

EVERY Friday and Saturday night, Hamilton comes alive.

You can do WHAT in Brisbane?!

Talk about arriving in style! Take your pub crawl to the next level with a helicopter!

BET you didn't know you could do these things in Brisbane...

Searches stopped after no signs of swimmer

POSSIBLE DROWING: Crews search off Cabarita Beach following reports a swimmer was seen in distress in the waters off Norries Headland.

Search for swimmer on hold.

Australia 'streets ahead' of anywhere else on Earth

INTREPID ADVENTURERS: Iain Finlay with wife Trish Clark at their home in North Tumbulgum this week.

Australia Day ambassador Iain Finlay looks back on lucky life

Learning the tricks of the circus trade

ROLL UP, ROLL UP: Children at Tweed Shire Vacation Care learn some circus skills from Circus in Education director Jacqui Levy.

Children escaped to the circus for the day.

Local Partners

From Casino to Iraq: How Shay is serving her country

WHEN Shay Maloney left Casino to join the Army in 2013, shortly after her 18th birthday, the idea of a deployment to Iraq was far from her mind.


Suzi Quatro returns with live supergroup launch

DEVIL GATE: Suzi Quatro will reignite her love affair with Australia in February for the Leather Forever Encore tour.

"It's always been a special place for me”

Puppetry of the Penis secrets revealed ahead of show

The famed Puppetry of the Penis is coming to the Sunshine Coast for shows in Noosa and Caloundra.

WARNING: This interview contains adult themes and traces of nuts

Become a 'picker' at Byron with vintage fair

Who knows what you could find at this weekend's vintage fair?

THOUSANDS of collectors and sellers will converge on Byron Bay

Ozzy Osbourne fell asleep during his driving test

Not a good idea to give Ozzy a Ferrari

Kristen Stewart to host SNL

Kristen Stewart will host a pre-Super Bowl episode of SNL next month

Search for Merseybeat magic continues

The Searchers are coming to Twin Towns in February as part of a national tour.

"It's a free spirited country with a relaxed attitude to everything”

Louis Tomlinson celebrated his son's first birthday

Louis Tomlinson and Briana Jungwirth celebrate son's first birthday

Kylie Minogue will take husband's name

Kylie Minogue will take her fiancé Joshua Sasse's surname

Nicole reveals her biggest parenting challenges

Actress Nicole Kidman.

Nicole Kidman says her kids are ‘deeply attuned' to her moods.

Why investors are flocking to Moranbah

Moranbah homes are selling like hotcakes, creating a supply problem

Investors are scrambling to get into the market

Casuarina tops Tweed house market at $870,000

Casuarina recorded the region's top median prices for both houses ($870,000) and units ($435,000).

Buyers jumping at chance to get into Tweed property market

Beautiful Terranora acreage

77 Mahers Lane, Terranora.

Check out this week's feature property.

Thousands of jobs part of $1b retirement village project

THIS YEAR: An artist impression of the new Aveo retirement village in Springfield.

Aveo Springfield unveiled this month, homes ready by July

KNIFE-EDGE: The housing tightrope we now face

Even the smallest interest rate rise will be hard for some to handle.

One if five home owners at risk, according to new analysis

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!