Like other teenage boys, 14-year-old Patrick loves sport, gaming and chatting with friends. However, his mum Karen noticed from an early age, that Patrick seemed unable to regulate his emotions, and regularly felt stressed and anxious. Her search for answers led to a diagnosis of autism.

“When Patrick was finally diagnosed with autism at the age of eight, things began to make more sense,” Karen said.

“I started to understand why he would get agitated and stressed quickly and how the environment he was in would heighten that.

“I quickly learnt what sorts of things would trigger Patrick, and what coping strategies to try when needing to deescalate stressful situations to ensure he was safe.”

Patrick and his MumKaren spent a lot of time researching, chatting with other parents with children on the spectrum, medical professionals and teachers to gain as much information about autism and to give Patrick the support possible so that he reaches his full potential in life.

“A day for Patrick has so many variables, but daily routine is one of the keys to a better day.

“Regular visits with the team at the Queensland Children’s Hospital and other services are also a big help.

“I have made a point of letting Patrick know that autism is not an excuse for poor behaviour, nor should it define him – instead he should define autism and all that it encompasses.”

This is the motto Karen and her family have tried to embrace, hoping this will educate others along the way.

Fingers crossed Karen and Patrick’s pet dog, Harley, will be soon be trained as an autism assistance dog.

Useful links

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD): overview

Signs of autism in primary school aged children and teenagers

Go blue for autism

AEIOU Foundation