We would like to thank Lisa Domican for taking time to guest blog for us! 

 Lisa Domican is an Australian living in Ireland. She’s the mother of Liam and Gracie Domican who both have autism. As a parent, Lisa has had 14 years experience of raising her children with autism and has been attending courses and studying evidence based interventions for the last 10 years.As a mother, Lisa fought to understand her initially non-verbal son Liam, and learned to interact with him using the things he liked most. It was the introduction of a simple picture exchange system that prompted Liam to begin imitating and attempting to say the words on the cards he used to make requests.However, using the same picture exchange system, Lisa was able to prompt Gracie to begin requesting what she wanted with pictures but unlike her brother, Gracie did not begin to develop speech until she was almost 8 years old. It was Gracie’s complex picture vocabulary that inspired Lisa to create the Grace App as she wanted to keep prompting Gracie’s independent vocalisations and reward her social interaction.The Grace App for Autism helps autistic and other special needs children to communicate effectively, by building semantic sequences from relevant images to form sentences. Lisa decided long ago that life was too short to put up with other people’s expectations of “normal” and just does what she wants to do. You can follow Lisa on her blog “Living with Autism”. Also check out her TedTalk!

My name is Lisa Domican and I am the mother of 2 healthy, energetic, engaging and good-looking teenagers; who are both very autistic.

I co-created the Grace App along with my daughter Grace and a very clever young Games developer called Steve Troughton-Smith.

Grace App is a picture communications system for smart phones that has enabled 30,000 non-verbal people with autism or other communication disabilities to ask for what they want.

Unlike the multitude of picture speaking apps that followed, Grace app was created to be owned and controlled by the person who needs it. The goal is to give the user, the person with the disability, total control over what they want to communicate, and the means to do it independently.

When you have a child with Autism, the hardest thing is when your kids can’t and won’t interact with you. I felt like a failure as a parent because I couldn’t “reach” them. I made it my life’s work to find a way to connect. I needed them to need me and now they do. I have value in their lives.

I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world giving talks and have accepted international awards for my work with Grace App; but nothing matches the feeling I get when I know that both my children are well cared for and content to be with me at the end of the day. That was the culmination of 10 years of studying and learning about Autism. Achievement unlocked.

Today I am facing into the fact that my son will be finishing school in 2 years and there is no provision in place for where he will go after that. We’ve just gone through a 7-month process of applying for a disability allowance for him, but at no point did anyone ask what else he could do. He basically has no value in our economic system and is seen as a net burden to be managed.

Sadly I see this attitude wherever I go. Autistic people are not worthy of the investment in systemic change that is required to truly enable them to reach their potential and be a valued part of our world.

We know what needs to be done: early recognition, early diagnosis, early evidence-based intervention and life long support. This combination vastly improves the chances for people with an autistic spectrum condition to have equal access to independent fulfilling lives.

The value of their potential contribution has to be recognised in order for the incumbent systems to accept change.

This would be so easy to achieve! Access to high quality primary care professionals trained to recognise autism would vastly improve early referrals. Access to well-trained diagnostic professionals who do not delay diagnosis would enable much earlier intervention. Access to early evidence-based intervention with qualified professionals would improve the quality of that intervention. Access to parent education would enable them to accept and cope more easily with the changes they have to make to support their children.

Individually planned education in settings that suit the needs of the learner would enable people with autism to progress through their academic education, while getting the specialised help they need with life skills in the same setting. Inclusion on their own terms would enable them to learn from peers with support, but also create communities of better citizens who see inclusion in every day society as a right, not a privilege.

I have never been one to look too far ahead in my autism journey. One bite of the cookie is what I say and leave the rest for later when you feel up to it. Adolescence and impending adulthood has forced that giant cookie in my face and I have had to try and nibble around it, looking for the best way in.

Lying awake and worrying into the small hours of the morning never does me any good. So today I choose action; I am going create an occupation for my son that utilises and values his skills with technology while supporting his additional needs.

My aim is to bring together Coders, Developers, big corporations, social enterprise, Behaviour Analysts and politicians to create a “finishing school” for people with autism so they can earn a living in technology or whatever their skill might be.

I’m going to take advantage of the profile I have from creating Grace App and use it to engage the people I need to make my master plan happen. All parents want the best for their children and parents of children on the spectrum are no different.

I want my children to always be a part of my life, but I also want them to have the chance to play a part in shaping their own lives.

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-Lisa Domican and her son Liam Domican!

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-Grace Domican, co-creator of GraceApp!

 

 

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