Huge turn out to hear World Autism expert in Grafton

By Claire Absolum, 14 November 2016 , Comments

A crowd of over 200 people packed out the Grafton Community Centre on Friday to hear world renowned clinical psychologist Professor Tony Attwood speak on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The event was made possible by local disability servicer provider Northcott and was the brainchild of Grafton resident Remana Harris who campaigned for over a year to make Prof Attwood’s visit possible.

Northcott’s Ballina office received numerous enquires about the event, with many being turned away or having to be placed on waiting lists. Those who were able to secure a place travelled from as far away as Bonalbo, Bellingen and Ballina to attend.

The enormous interest in the event highlights the great need for information and services for people with disability in regional areas such as Grafton.

Remana said of the level of interest, “I knew there would be a big response in Grafton because we’re so isolated so when something like this happens its very exciting.”

Remana’s desire to bring Prof Attwood to Grafton was sparked last year after her 6 year old son Thomas was diagnosed with Autism. As she says; “When the diagnosis came part of it was a relief. We’d really been struggling so much in the year leading up to it so it was like now we have something we can work with, we can seek resources and find different ways to support us.”

Remana Harris and Belinda Adams

Remana read Prof Attwood’s textbooks on ASD and wanted to attend his presentations but they were prohibitively far away so she thought “what if he comes to Grafton – are there any people that could help with that?”

Remana got in touch with the Northcott Early Links team in Ballina and shared her dream of bringing Prof Attwood to Grafton. The Early Links team got right behind Remana and launched a series of fundraising campaigns which generated enough funding to make Friday’s event possible.

Remana said of event; “It was a really good day. Tony is a huge source of knowledge and delivers his seminar in a really entertaining way. I know it changed my level of understanding and perspective of Autism and I think a lot of local families felt the same. I had people coming up to me saying exactly what I thought ….’he makes it easy to understand.’

As Autism is an invisible disability it’s not always obvious to people what it is and sometimes people don’t believe you which makes it hard, so events like this are really important ways of increasing people’s understanding of Autism in the community.”

Remana also added “Northcott are amazing for making this happen.”

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