Family of Bendigo boy with severe autism blown away by support

GRATEFUL: Martina McNeill says she is thankful to everyone who has offered support or sent messages to her and her family. Picture: DARREN HOWE
GRATEFUL: Martina McNeill says she is thankful to everyone who has offered support or sent messages to her and her family. Picture: DARREN HOWE

The mother of a Bendigo boy with severe autism says she is blown away with the support she has received since sharing her story.

Martina McNeill spoke to the Bendigo Advertiser last week as a last resort to help get her son Alex the support he needs.

“I feel rejuvenated just because people are being so kind,” she said. “It’s like restoring my faith.”

Nine-year-old Alex requires constant care because of his severe autism along with a number of other disorders including severe sensory processing disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. 

His condition is so challenging that no respite centre will take him even for a short period and his parents and siblings are exhausted maintaining the level of care Alex needs.

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Along with donations and messages of support, the McNeills have also received offers of help from parents, support workers and even a former teacher’s aide from a special development school.

One offer to paint Alex’s bedroom with nursery rhymes even moved her mother to tears.

“It just blows me away how people have done that,” Ms McNeill said.

“Just knowing that people out there get it and they’re not judging us. And even if someone says what can I do to help, that means so much more, it really does, because you quite often feel alone in this journey of ours.”

Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan has also reached out to the McNeills since the article and child protection services has assigned a worker to their case.

“She has been absolutely amazing,” Ms McNeill said of Ms Allan’s support, which has included speaking to housing disability and ageing minister Martin Foley, and organising advocates to be attend Alex’s latest National Disability Insurance Agency review meeting.

“You get to days where you think you can’t do this anymore, I don’t want to fight anymore, and then you read another message of support and it’s like, ‘OK, I can do it again now’. It helps.”

Alex’s National Disability Insurance Scheme plan is under review and while the NDIA is considering increasing funding for more support worker hours, Ms McNeill said on Thursday this week, their plea for funding to create a safe space for Alex had been refused.

The McNeills hoped to extend their White Hills property to build a new bedroom and therapy space for Alex, but without government funding, are unable to afford the cost.

Facebook mums rally to support McNeill family

Motivated to help Ms McNeill and her family, a group of mothers of children with autism have banded together online to help get Alex the space he needs.

The mothers – who Ms McNeill met on Facebook – have been calling Bendigo builders and trades this week to get any help they can.

“We’ve just had such an overwhelming response from people and it’s been wonderful,” NSW mum Shannan Fink said.

“When you have a child you don’t expect this is going to be the outcome. You don’t expect these cards are going to be dealt to you.”

Ms Fink’s son also has autism and, despite never meeting Ms McNeill in person, she wanted to give back after she helped her during a time of need.

“Martina helps so many other people in the autism community,” she said.

“I really hope we can get together and get this done for Martina, Alex and their family –  it would be wonderful.”

So far, talks are in progress with a builder about coming up with a design, two electricians and a roofer, but much more support is needed.

“You literally have to fight every step of the way to get services and to advocate for your child,” Ms Fink said.

“I think anybody who is kind enough to give time and resources to something like this just shows how people will reach out when somebody's in a time of need.”

Anyone willing to help can contact Adrina on 0415 928 026.