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Here at Children of the Tribe, we believe all children should be loved, accepted and seen for the person they are - not because they’re different.
Although awareness and acceptance of autism has improved in recent years, we still have a long way to go.
One person working hard to start open conversations and ensure her six-year-old son Hugo thrives in his local community is illustrator, designer and devoted mum Misa Alexander.
When he was two, Hugo, a beautiful boy with a penchant for lawnmowers, was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
The positive response lead to Misa and author Erin Knutt penning their successful self-published children’s book, Fergus & Delilah, a quirky and heartwarming story about accepting differences.
The response has been heartwarming for Misa who hopes Fergus & Delilah to be available in every school in Australia in the future.
“I wanted a tool that was available at the school so it could help support other students to be inclusive of Hugo and have a common platform where despite some of his shortcomings – he’s not as communicative as they are – they can still engage with him in other ways,” Misa tells Children of the Tribe.
“It really is to create that transparency and build more conversations. A lot of the time there is that real stigmatisation around disabilities. There is so much you can do at such a young age and if you don’t take action and you hide from the obvious, I feel that wont help long-term.
“I think our society and the way we are with disabilities it makes it more challenging and it is difficult to have open conversations with schools and other parents so the book is a good way to deliver the message.”
She says she has been buoyed by the support from her son’s classmates and their parents and the local Byron Bay community.
“It profoundly surprises me how much the parents around here really back us,” she says. “If you have that support, that transfers down to the kids and then the kids support Hugo – it’s a win-win.
“My hope for Hugo is that he continues to grow and connect in his community and that he finds something that thrills him and will carry him through life.
“There will always be hard work behind the scenes with him but I am seeing it paying off the fact that he has 13 kids in his classroom and they all love him and connect with him even though he cant communicate very well.
“That to me is amazing. If that can follow through until his adulthood, I will be so happy."
To purchase a copy of Fergus & Delilah go to http://fergus-delilah.com
To learn more about World Autism Awareness Day go to https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/world-autism-awareness-day