GYMPIE local Nelle Frances did not know where to find support when her son Sam was diagnosed with Autism, but she is hoping to show Gympie community members in similar situations they are not alone.
Ms Frances, a long time disability support worker who travels all over the country as an Autism Education Consultant under the banner of her Asperger Child organisation, is set to host an Autism Awareness High Tea at the Gympie RSL on May 1.
The High Tea will aim to strengthen the bonds between individuals with Autism, their families and local service providers.
Ms Frances said she hoped the event would encourage parents and carers to learn about the support networks around them and chat with fellow attendees about their experiences.
"Gympie is a very disability-friendly community and there is a lot of support available, but I still get a lot of e-mails from people saying they don't know where to go,” she said.
"I'll tell people a little bit about my story, and the goal will be to bring people together to mingle with support services and share their stories too.
"We want to show people how much support is at their fingertips.”
Nelle with her 27-year-old son Sam. Contributed
After struggling to cope with her son's condition in the early stages of his development, Ms Frances was forced to stop working to care for him full-time.
She she was soon inspired to write children's books based on her experiences with her son and the kids she had worked with in the past.
The first book, entitled Ben, His Helmet and the Too Tight Hair was published in 2003, and follows the titular character's journey in overcoming autism-related challenges.
"We were a one-income family when I stopped working to take care of Sam, and I thought for a long time about what we were going to do to pay the bills, and I decided on children's books,” Ms Frances said.
"They say write what you know, and what I knew was Autism. I dedicated the first one to Sam.
"The books don't mention the A-word, because Sam didn't want to identify with that word when he was 10, and they talk about life from Ben's point of view and how he processes his world.
"I thought we needed to talk about Autism at schools, so they're set in the mainstream classroom.
"I wanted to write the books not only for kids with autism, but their classmates and their parents too, so they could understand a little bit more about them.
Ms Frances has since published four more Ben and His Helmet stories, and has the synopses planned for an additional five in the future.
On top of next month's high tea, Ms Frances said she has also received interest from local businesses including the Gympie Bone Museum on holding future events such as "quiet hours”, in which autistic individuals can visit public places without risk of over-stimulation.
Ms Frances said Gympie was "the most disability friendly community” she has lived in.
Phone 07 5481 2754 to RSVP for the High Tea on Tuesday, May 1.
Visit https://www.aspergerchild.com/ for more information.