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Coming home to autism

TARA LENISTON shares her journey after son Dylan was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). By KATE BARBER

In her book Coming Home to Autism, Tara writes openly and intimately about the distress and fear that she and husband Andrew experienced when they discovered something was different about their son, and her desperate need to arm herself with as much knowledge as possible about ASD so that she might best support Dylan to ‘find his way in the world’.

It was Christmas 2011, with family staying, that the change in their one-year-old became obvious. From a ‘smiling, babbling baby’, Dylan now ‘started to scream when anyone touched him…. As a first-time mother, I wasn’t sure what was normal and what wasn’t. But it was clear from looking at the other children that Dylan was quite different.’

After finally receiving a diagnosis, Tara was distraught to be told that ‘there was no cure and [that the doctors] had no idea of what the future would hold for him.’

That night she went to bed with an aching heart. But in the morning, ‘I woke up with a fire in my belly and my head racing with thoughts. I wanted to know everything there was to know about autism.’

Speaking of his wife’s personal crusade to find out all she could about ASD, Andrew says that ‘Tara’s dedication became an obsession’. He opens up about how Dylan’s diagnosis and Tara’s response impacted on him personally and on their marriage – leading to his ‘crash’ into depression and the couple’s separation.

Ultimately, they were able to get the help they needed to grow stronger as individuals, and, after nearly a year apart, they came back together as a family.

As well as opening up about the many challenges they have faced, in her book Tara shares the knowledge and ideas she has gleaned. And she opens the doors of the family’s home to reveal the ways they have created spaces and developed routines to support Dylan.

From creating a calming space in the bedroom, to managing meal times in response to hypersensitivity to different textures, to using visual timetables to help alleviate anxiety around car trips, Tara moves room-by-room through the house and beyond, offering insights into ASD and practical tips for other parents with children on the spectrum.

‘I am not saying it’s easy, but I hope that my book will offer some practical advice and support on how to make living at home with ASD easier. I am not a doctor, nor am I an ASD specialist. I am simply a mother with a passion to help my son find his way in the world.’

Coming Home to Autism: A Room-by-Room Approach to Supporting Your Child at Home after ASD Diagnosis, by Tara Leniston and Rhian Grounds, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, jkp.com. Books can be purchased in Australia and New Zealand from footprint.com.au

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