Autism ‘not a mental illness’

ONE of the misconceptions surrounding autism is the belief it’s a mental illness, claims a Wodonga mother.

Shelley Lapworth made the comment at QEII Square in Albury yesterday during an education and fun day for families of those with the disorder.

Her son, Riley, 8, was diagnosed 3½ years ago when the only word he would speak was “no”.

“People are scared because they don’t understand it and they think it’s a mental illness,” she said.

“It’s not classified as a mental illness, it’s just different wiring of the brain.”

Ms Lapworth joined forces with another mother, Belinda Martin, to recently establish a Facebook page called the Regional Australia Autism Support Network.

The network has 75 members from throughout the region and yesterday was the group’s first event, with all proceeds going to Aspect Riverina School.

Ms Lapworth said her son was originally diagnosed with severe autism.

However, she credited early intervention classes at the LEAP Centre in Wodonga, as well as speech therapy, for his improved learning skills.

Ms Lapworth said the network was all about providing support.

“When Riley was first diagnosed I wasn’t sure if I was ever doing enough for him,” she said.

“I want to be able to guide other families through the tough times.

“There’s a lot of education out there these days and parents can get a lot of support.”

Wodonga mum Susanne Rossmann attended the event with her son, Jasper, 3, who may have the disorder.

“He hasn’t started talking and he doesn’t understand a lot of what we are saying,” she said.

“We are in the process of having him assessed by doctors, but it’s a waiting game.”

Jasper Voll, 3 of Wodonga, who will be assessed soon to see if he has autism. PICTURE: Peter Merkesteyn.

Jasper Voll, 3 of Wodonga, who will be assessed soon to see if he has autism. PICTURE: Peter Merkesteyn.

Wodonga’s Riley Yates, who has autism, and his mum Shelley Lapworth. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

Wodonga’s Riley Yates, who has autism, and his mum Shelley Lapworth. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN