Bendigo autism radio program a first

PHOENIX FM launched an Australia-first radio program at the weekend, which will provide insight into living with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in regional Victoria.

The live radio broadcast, Real People Talk ASD, was the brainchild of local mother of two and Phoenix FM radio presenter Bec Kelly.

The weekly segment begins on September 8 and will cover every aspect of the autism spectrum, as well as feature interviews and guest speakers.

Phoenix FM board member Geoff Morris, published ASD author Lyndal Kennedy and Kerang motivational speaker Michael Whatham spoke at the launch, which was hosted by Eaglehawk’s The Star Cinema.

Mr Whatham, 60, was not officially diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome until 2001 when he was in his late 40s.

He said that as a child he was neglected by health services in his native Manchester, England.

 The academic and poet did not walk until age eight or talk until age 14 and received no formal schooling. 

He lived in more than 30 institutions and was homeless by age 17. 

Early life in Australia was no different. 

Mr Whatham spent several years in and out of public care and army service before gaining entry to Bendigo La Trobe University in 2004.

Mr Whatham said with the number of diagnosed cases of ASD on the rise, the program was a crucial stepping stone towards adequate support and care in the Bendigo region.

“For parents it could offer respite, for the people on the Aspergers scale it could open up a new world for them,” he said.

Mrs Kelly’s children, Audrey, 4, and Patrick, 2, were diagnosed with ASD in infancy.

The Strathfieldsaye mother said their diagnoses were traumatic experiences for the tight-knit family, that they would carry with them into later life.

She said inadequate funding and services meant many families living with ASD were often left unsupported and alone.

Mrs Kelly is in talks with local Department of Education officials, pushing for the construction of a whole-of-life autism centre for Bendigo.

For more information, call Mrs Kelly on 0413 618 088.

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