06 Apr Go Blue for Autism in April | Charlene and Nathan Payne’s story
Mother’s intuition told Charlene Payne her son Nathan had special needs. While he wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome until he was seven years old, her gut feeling told her Nathan was on the autism spectrum long before that.
“He was born six weeks premature and everyone kept telling me he was way behind other kids his age because he was prem,” she said.
“His fine motor skills, ability to speak, and bodily functions were just so far behind. We were living in Melbourne and I just knew it was more than being a premature baby.
“It was hard for me, but also hard for his younger brother Matthew. When Nathan got to five, Matthew was three and talking…verbally Nathan was still really bad.”
Charlene said she moved to Timboon with her two sons when Nathan was eight. She said that although that meant travelling further for specialists, growing up in a small, close-knit community had been good for Nathan.
“Between prep and grade one he changed a lot. He became very angry and even violent. We moved down here and started working with local psychologists, counsellors, nutritionists and just got to work finding help,” she said.
“The local speech therapist discovered he was also tongue tied, which explained a bit. But, he joined the I CAN Network, which meant he spent more time with other kids on the spectrum. He just changed…he became more confident.
“He had his challenges at school – not so much academically, but socially. Then in Year 9 he was in a leadership program and went to China…he came back a different person.
“I never thought he’d be able to go halfway around the world like that without me, but he did and he was excited to go. Timboon has been great for him.”
Charlene said Nathan excelled at maths and struggled with English. She said he had completed two VET courses at TAFE the last few years and now held down a job in the kitchen at the Timboon Hotel.
“I think talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) like this is important. There is still a stigma around it, but we know so much more than we did 15 years ago,” she said.
“I have great hope for Nathan now. He is very independent and won’t need me…I want him to go and explore the world. It will be harder for him, but he’ll learn.
“He’ll finish Year 12 this year and, job wise, he’s hoping to find an apprenticeship as a chef. He’s also very interested in filming and maybe something will come of that.”
Charlene urged parents who had concerns like she did to find answers and help steer their children on the right path at a young age.
“If you think your child isn’t where they should be, however young, advocate for them, find other parents like me who have been through it, talk about it, network with others and you’ll find the answer you need to find the hope I now have for Nathan.”
April is Go Blue for Autism month.