Pomona’s Sharon Hill and her daughter Grace who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.
Pomona’s Sharon Hill and her daughter Grace who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Geoff Potter

Asperger's syndrome misunderstood

SHARON Hill remembers the day she realised her daughter Grace was different from other children.

"I knew something was wrong but couldn't quite out my finger on it," she recalled.

"She was always off with the fairies. It was like she was in another world.

"She also began to display repetitive behaviour, which I found odd.

"She'd have rituals and do things in groups of four like brushing her teeth and tapping the toilet seat."

Grace's teacher also noticed differences and said sometimes she would not respond when spoken to.

After visiting a specialist three years ago, Grace was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome - a developmental disorder that can affect a child's ability to socialise and communicate.

Mrs Hill said Grace now faced the struggles associated with the disorder every day.

"She really doesn't like the interactive aspect of school and hates going. A lot of her time at school is spent sitting on her own.

"It's hard for the other kids to understand why she behaves the way she does."

Mrs Hill, who also suffers from the condition, said a lack of understanding from people of all ages was the biggest hurdle faced by people with Asperger's.

"There is definitely a stigma associated with the Asperger's."

Her son, now 28, was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 14.

"He was expelled from school and has found it really hard to have successful relationships and hold on to employment."

While Asperger's can be debilitating, sufferers are usually gifted in some way.

"My son is a wonderful writer and is studying journalism at university," Mrs Hill said.

"Grace is also a great writer and is very advanced at reading and spelling in school."

While she can't control how others view the condition, Mrs Hill's main focus is to instil confidence in her children and help make their lives as manageable as possible.

"All I can do as a parent is encourage and support my child

ren. They're met with a lot of rejection so I try to reassure them as much a possible. Hopefully that empowers them to grow into successful young people."

Today is International Asperger's Day. For information on the condition go to www.asperger .asn.au.



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