Mum's dedication inspires others

Rachel Marshall helps her children Harry and Ava with their homework.
Rachel Marshall helps her children Harry and Ava with their homework. Allan Reinikka

YOU may not know it by looking at this picture, but Rachel Marshall has an inspirational yarn to tell.

The single mother of two children with autism, and one with multi disabilities, shared her story with more than 100 carers at a forum yesterday.

Her eight-year-old son Harry was diagnosed with autism when he was three-years old, and her five-year-old daughter Ava was diagnosed only a few months later.

"I was doing therapy with him since he was 18-months because he had a hearing loss," she said.

Asked how she handled the news both her children had autism, Ms Marshall said it was a relief.

"It was a relief to know there was a medical explanation for what was happening," she said.

"A lot of people would say it was because of your parenting - from your family and the public.

"Ava started having seizures when she was seven-months-old. She had to wear a helmet."

But it hasn't just been the public's perspective that has been a negative experience.

Ms Marshall said when Harry and Ava were younger, there would be up to 10 or 12 hospital admissions a year.

She said she was living in Boyne Island, but moved to Gracemere about four years ago to be closer to non-family support and medical services.

Ms Marshall is now living in public housing in Rockhampton, due to the financial strain. But despite the financial struggles, it has been worth it.

She said when the children were first diagnosed, they were told they would only ever go to special needs schools.

"I did as much research and as many courses as I could do so I could do therapies with the children because there's not enough available in the region to sustain their progress," Ms Marshall said.

She learnt how to use sign language to communicate with the children, and Ava was the first to have a PODD communications book.

Through Ms Marshall's hard work doing therapy work with her children, both are now in the mainstream school system, attending St Mary's Catholic Primary School.

Topics:  autism children health mother parenting

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