Dayna Brown

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My target 40 kms

25 days of Autism Day 25!!!! WE DID IT! Thanks for staying with me!

Post a photo of your child changing and/or educating the world!

There is no 1 photo, or even 10, or even 100’s of photos that could demonstrate the way that Ziva is changing, and will change, the world. 

So, for our last day… I want you to do something for me! 🙏🏼 A photo can’t say it all, but you can! Can you share here how Ziva or our stories over the last 25 days have changed, educated, or inspired you? 

I’ve attached a video that I just love. It resonates with me and our journey. Give it a watch! 

Here we are after one of my training runs. She high 5’d me as I crossed the finish line and I know, she’s proud; even if she can’t express that! 🥰🏃‍♀️

Don’t forget to shoot through your song recommendations for my running playlist and pleeease, pretty pleeeease, donate here!   

Your support and engagement over the past 25 days have meant the world to me. Thank you! 🎉🎊💖

25 days of Autism Day 24 - Post a photo of your child at age 7 or current.

Ziva is growing up fast, she’s 10 now… Just ask her! These are photos from my brothers wedding in June. A fantastic day, celebrating two wonderful people and the life they are building together! 💖 

I took Ziva and Stella shopping to find dresses to wear for the wedding; something I had often wondered if I would ever be able to do with my oldest daughter. Another instance where something seemingly simple, meaningless or even tedious and frustrating for some parents, was cause for a joyful celebration inside my heart. 🥰

We tried on…..So. Many. dresses. Too itchy, too short, too boring, too babyish… the list goes on. As soon as she tried this one on and rubbed the beautifully soft faux fur collar against her cheek she announced “I like this one Mum!” Gotta love that sensory need being met, right there on her dress! I caught her rubbing her face on the faux fur so many times during the day, soothing herself when she was feeling anxious or overwhelmed. It was the perfect find!

Ziva danced the night away with our family and had the best time! She even caught the bouquet while I was off feeding Reed! Cheeky! 🙊 

I’ve been talking to my sister over the past few weeks. We’ve talked about how this reflective period we are in, feels like a bit of a honeymoon period.  We’ve made it through early childhood and we are all still almost sane… and now we have high school and the teenage years ahead of us. I’m sure we have a lot to learn and a lot more sanity to lose!  We are already getting glimpses of the attitude, interests and hormones that will come with teenagers. Pray for us. Or, if that’s not your thing, send wine! 🍷🤪😂

Pre season softball training really hurt on Wednesday night! Must have used muscles I didn’t know I had! Pushed through the soreness to run 5km this evening. Cross your fingers that I can do that every day, back to back!

There’s still time to donate! Don’t forget and please feel free to share any of my posts that have been meaningful to you.

25 days of Autism Day 23 - Post a photo of your child on vacation

Probably the best family vacation we have ever been on was to Queenstown, New Zealand. The girls were nearly 5 and nearly 2. A special time spent away with Sages Mum! 

Again, we had a very clear schedule of activities we were planning to do each day to create some certainty for her and this worked for the most part. Unless, the plan unexpectedly changed. 

I remember not having a bath in the hotel room being a problem because both girls had only ever had baths and they were terrified of the shower! 😭 oh the hysterics over getting clean. 🤦🏻‍♀️ 

We tried lots of new things and only had one meltdown the whole week. (A pretty explosive, public one but still, only 1) I called that a complete success! Again, I was nervous about how she would go on the plane, how she would go in the hotel room. If the hot chips were different there, would she eat anything at all!? 

It was another lesson in letting her try things and not deciding for her that she couldn’t do it or that it would be too hard. Not being controlled by a fear of something going wrong, when things so often DO go wrong, is a challenge. She did great and she has very fond, vivid memories of that time. (Which is amazing because she wasn’t even 5!) 

I think what’s important for people to understand is that when a child (or an adult even) that is on the Autism Spectrum appears to be doing well from the outside; more often than not, they’re working super hard for it to appear that way. 

 Imagine having to think intentionally and very hard about making sure, you’re speaking at an appropriate level or that you’re not standing too close to someone. That your urge to spin, jump, run and flap isn’t going to put you in any danger (like on a boat!) and if it is, trying to suppress it. These, amongst thousands of other things are happening inside that little persons brain, to appear as though they are doing ok. How exhausting! 

It’s no wonder that current research shows that 50% to 70% of people with ASD will develop a mental health condition in their lifetime. 

I often wish that the world would meet her half way, so that she didn’t have to work quite so hard to function in this world the way people expect. Yesterday I talked about all the therapy and hard work she’s putting in to try to understand and navigate the world. I would love to see the world do the same to understand and accomodate her neurology better! 💖💖💖

The run starts on Sunday and I’m ready! Time to make it count!   

I’ve got a request! Hit me up with recommendations for a running playlist. If you’ve been reading, if you know Ziva; please give me a song that makes you think of her! I want to be thinking of her with every step! 💖🏃‍♀️

25 days of Autism Day 22 - Post a photo of your child receiving therapy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Ziva is the hardest working kid I know. She started in therapeutic services of some description from about 2.5 years old and hasn’t stopped. 

She started with early intervention groups that normally had a group of 5 or 6 kids, speech therapist, occupational therapist, early childhood teacher and sometimes a psychologist. The first one was through ACT therapy but it all got shut down not long after she started; so we were left looking for new services. 

That’s when we found ASPECT. She began an early intervention group on Fridays and through that, we managed to connect with incredible therapists and early childhood experts. 

Something that we learned very early was how important finding the “right” therapists were. Ziva has a vibrant, exuberant, theatrical and excitable personality and whoever worked with her needed to at the very least match that level of energy. Otherwise, she simply wouldn’t engage and progress was slow. 

Remember how I said, I’ve had to learn to be more assertive? Knowing when someone wasn’t the right fit for Ziva and having to cease services caused me so much anxiety. I never wanted to offend as more often than not, they were very skilled, kind and knowledgeable people, just not right for us. 

Services in Canberra from paeds to speechies, OT’s to psychologists are all incredibly under resourced. Often when we lost a therapist, we were without one for a solid chunk of time because waitlists were so long! 

Samantha has been our Occupational Therapist from day dot and we see her fortnightly (outside of Covid restrictions). I think I said already, she’s now considered an extension of our family. 💖 She has helped Ziva with eating, toileting, showering, dressing, tying shoes, riding a bike and road rules, writing, play skills, attention span and countless other things! 

Ziva has seen many different speech therapists as it’s been a struggle to find the right ones and when we did find someone that was the perfect fit, they changed careers, moved interstate or something similar.  😩😢

We eventually found Rochelle, another ASPECT speech therapist and Ziva instantly connected with her! She was fun, cool, energetic and playful and suited Z perfectly! When she left ASPECT to pursue her own venture with “The Social Connectors”, based in Queanbeyan; we were devastated. Logistically, we couldn’t make it work and we found ourselves, yet again, without a speech therapist. 

I met Lauren while playing oztag and she happened to mention she had her own speech pathology business, “Eat Speak Learn Speech Pathology.” She connected us with Kiara and we’ve been seeing her fortnightly for a good while now. Again, a good match for Ziva and we’ve seen so much progress since working with Kiara. At the moment she’s helping us with more of the vocabulary, sentence structure, story telling and pronunciation aspects of speech and language.  

More recently, Rochelle from “The Social Connectors” got back in contact with us and we’ve been seeing her fortnightly again too. We’re focusing more so on social skills and conversation based language in her sessions. 

Rochelle has also connected us with a weekly facilitated social skills group that she runs with other girls Ziva’s age. Ziva is learning so many valuable social skills in this setting and it’s lovely to listen to them practise their new found skills! 

Ziva did equine therapy with Pegasus from about the age of 3 or 4, through until just last year. Incredibly valuable programs that have helped Ziva develop core strength, attention span, following instruction, communication and horsemanship skills.

Ziva has started art therapy this year, through Inkbrush Art therapy. We’ve found this a great way to help Ziva unpack and process her thoughts and feelings without the pressure of communication. Highly recommend! 

With all of that, plus school, you can imagine how busy my Miss Z really is! That’s not including swimming lessons and she’s just started playing softball. 

Our biggest challenge has been to remember that Ziva is still a child and needs time to rest, play and just be a kid too! Every school holidays we shut everything down. No school, no sport, no therapy. Just to allow for actual rest and we think that keeps her going! 

As you can see, ASPECT have been a huge part of our journey and are so deserving of your hard earned $$$!

Please consider a donation to my run for Autism! Link below!

25 days of Autism Day 21 - Post a photo of your child with a grandparent.

Ziva has been loved and adored by her grandparents since the day she was born. She has my Mum and Dad (Nanna and Pop) and Sages Mum and James (Noni and Pa) in Canberra and Sages Dad and Tina Maree (Grandpa and Nonna) interstate. They have been our biggest supporters from day dot and we love them all very much!

When I saw that this was coming up, I asked Ziva’s grandparents in Canberra what it’s been like for them. If they had any thoughts to share or anything they wanted people to know about how being grandparents to a child on the autism spectrum might be different. 

Without hesitation, they all responded… “It’s no difference to us. We love her just the same! We think she’s wonderful!” 😭 Couldn’t have asked for a better response.

What they did say is that the hardest part, was watching the impact on Sage and I. The diagnosis and subsequent struggle impacts the whole of the child’s family and friends. We have worked through the stages of worry, denial, realisation, turmoil, acceptance, learning and celebrating together and Sage and I are beyond grateful to have had them all by our side. 

Loving Ziva was easy but watching us struggle was painful for them. It is never easy to watch your kids go through something hard, even more so when it’s something you haven’t been through yourself. It’s hard to know what to say or how to help.

Well, they have helped immensely. Listening to me vent, letting me cry, learning about her needs and how we were choosing to help her, helping us get her to and from school when we were both working, spending time with her so that Sage and I could take a break together. They’ve taught her all sorts of things from sewing to fishing; from knitting to gardening. 

They spoil her rotten too. Marshmallows, mulberries and green cordial at Nan and Pop’s. Sweet wafer biscuits, pancakes and cheese toasties at Noni and Pa’s. Grandpa’s choccie bikkies and chook pie at Grandpa and Nonna’s. Endless gifts, hugs and kisses from them all. All memories that will stick in her mind and help her to know how loved and celebrated she is! 💖💖💖

Only 4 days to go before my big run begins! Don’t forget, you can donate here!   

25 days of Autism Day 20 - post a baby photo of your child.

The day that I met Ziva, I changed forever. I fell in love in an instant and my heart swelled to an unimaginable size. I felt and will always feel so blessed to be her Mumma! 

She was a really beautiful baby and for the most part, so happy. I spent hours and hours a day just making her laugh. The sound of her laughter was so sweet, it was addictive!

For the whole pregnancy, we were going to name our baby, “Halle” if she was a girl. 

Then, a week before she was due to arrive, we were in a doctors waiting room and this lovely Mumma was chasing her beautiful toddler daughter around and calling “Ziva! Ziva!”

When we got home, we looked it up and found out that it means brilliance, radiance or light in Hebrew. When she was born, we looked at this beautiful little baby that looked like pure sunshine to us and thought, it’s got to be “Ziva!” It was a crazy moment, because we both said it at the same time! 

Now that we know her, we know that we got her name right! She shines so bright. She has an energy about her that does something to people. You can’t help but love being around her. She has so much personality, a warm and pure heart and the most hilarious sense of humour! 

She is an absolute light in our life and I will move mountains, heaven and earth, boil the ocean and re-arrange the stars to give her the life that she deserves. A life that feels whole and complete and full of the things and people that she loves; that fulfils her and brings her joy and happiness now and in the future. 

If you want to be a part of helping to build lives like that, not just for Ziva, but for others too. Please consider sponsoring my run for Autism! You can do that here!   

Only 5 more days and then I have to hit the pavement! Goodbye muscles!!! 😝

25 days of Autism Day 19 - Post a photo of your child in the community.

It’s always struck me, how easy life feels when it’s just us at home. In our comfort zones, free to be as “weird and wonderful” as we want to be. I’m sure this is true for everyone, in a way; but for us, It’s only when we go out into the world that we realise that we are different. That people might have opinions on how Ziva behaves or how we parent her. That our life might seem undesirable to some. 

Early on, we were reminded of this every time we ventured out. People would stare as Ziva flapped, squealed, ran around on her tippy toes and spun around and around in circles, struggled to share and take turns, wait and even melted down over something seemingly small. We were always kind of like “what are you looking at…? Oh yeah this is unexpected for you!” 

I’m ashamed to say that that’s when the embarrassment crept in. I felt this need to stop her, hide her or explain her behaviours; that they needed to know she had ASD so that they wouldn’t judge us and our parenting skills. Sometimes I think I had created a narrative in my head that said, “they’re thinking x, they’re whispering to their friend right now and talking about my “naughty” kid.” Often, they probably weren’t, but unfortunately, I was sometimes right and comments were made to me or about Ziva and I within ear shot, that further perpetuated that belief that I was under scrutiny, all the time. 

Then we would get home, and I would be racked with guilt about how I handled the situation. Thinking over and over about what I should have said, what would have been more helpful and valuable to that person and respectful to Ziva. Then we would go out again and the cycle would repeat itself! 

Going out was really hard for a long time. I took Ziva grocery shopping one time. She would have been about 4 and was really struggling to control emotions and communicate. While in the queue, she was trying to tell me something and trying so hard to make me understand what she needed but I just couldn’t understand. To this day, I still don’t know what it was that had set her off. Perhaps she had just become overwhelmed and wanted to leave? In any case, a meltdown ensued and I had to get through the checkout and get her back to the car. She had a set of pipes on her and I’m sure it was deafening for the people around us. I felt awful. 

A meltdown is different to a tantrum, even though people use these terms interchangeably. There is no reasoning with a child in the midst of a meltdown. It’s like that person isn’t even in there for a time. They completely shut down. I could offer her candy and a puppy and she wouldn’t respond. To everyone else, it looks like a naughty kid, cranky that they didn’t get that packet of lollies. 

Anyway, the lady in front of me in the queue, commented “Gosh, can’t you shut her up!? She needs a good smack…” I fired back, that it was unhelpful and that she had ASD and was struggling at the moment. “That didn’t exist in my day, just naughty kids that weren’t disciplined properly. Everyone wants to label these days instead of calling a spade a spade and parent them properly.” All while Ziva is still screaming, trying to get out of the trolley and throwing things.  Anyone that has been through this has likely heard this all before. 

I made the mistake of continuing to rebut and “argue” and she followed me out to my car, continuing the barrage of unsolicited advice, judgement and criticism. “I bet you, you work too. All women want to work these days and the kids are suffering. Do you give her a lot of sugar? You shouldn’t bring her out if she can’t be controlled” She didn’t once try or even offer, to help me. Perhaps she thought she was “helping?” All I know, is that I cried the whole way home and then some and then didn’t go out for a week. 

It could take hours for Ziva to recover from a meltdown like that. It completely wiped her out. My poor little love. 😢

Meltdowns are few and far between at the moment. She has much better communication skills now and can explain her thoughts. She has some good strategies for self identifying when she needs to take some time out, deep breathes or have a firm hug.  

We go out plenty now and she is mostly successful in the community. We took her to a concert this year! 😝

What I’ve discovered though, is that interactions like these are normally just a sign of lacking education, understanding and exposure. As hard as it is, responding calmly and using the opportunity to educate where possible does more to help the cause, than firing back out of a place of hurt. 

You just don’t know until you know. So, I figure I’ll help people to “know!” 

Thank you so much for reading and for all your love and support. Nearly there…. And then I just have to run! 🏃‍♀️ 

Don’t forget you can donate here!

25 days of Autism Day 18 - Post a photo of your child at 5 years old.

Ziva at 5 years old. She loved The Raiders like her Daddy and was so happy to win a signed jersey from the Ricky Stuart Foundation. It’s a treasured possession, even though both girls are too big for it now!

The second photo was a picture that was taken at preschool. They said that they couldn’t get her to sit with the set that they had set up to have the photos taken but the photographer managed to snap this one while she was playing. It’s one of my absolute favourite photos. 

At this point we were really getting stuck into therapies, learning a lot and feeling a lot better about how to help Ziva, but we were struggling with the addition of the preschool environment and the difficulties Ziva was having there. (I talked about this time on a previous day.) 

The third photo is a photo of Ziva with our empty bowls from dinner. Food has always been difficult for Ziva. As with lots of kids and people with ASD, Ziva has aversions to particular textures, mostly doughy or starchy ones for her. (think bread, pasta, rice) She also really struggles to try new food and gags at the thought of trying something new. 

At this age, Ziva was quickly removing foods from her “will eat” list and not replacing them because she wouldn’t try anything new. Her diet was becoming so restrictive that I was struggling to give her adequate nutrition. 

She also struggled to eat if she was anywhere other than at home! If we took her out, to a friends place, a restaurant or even grandparents houses, we struggled to get her to eat! Packed pre school lunches were coming home full! 

Anyone that knows me well, will know that I show my love by feeding people… I’m a feeder! So, this was hard for me to take! “Why won’t she eat my food!? 🤪😝

I adopted the approach described in “division of responsibility” when it came to Ziva’s eating as I was becoming too stressed about it. I decide what’s on offer, she decides “if” and “how much.” We took the pressure off and I think that helped me, if not Ziva!

We have worked with a dietitian that specialised in people with ASD as well as our OT to develop, very slowly, an improvement in her willingness to try and accept new food items. We’re still working on it but basically it’s a very gradual introduction of the new food. The first few times, she might just have to smell it. For the week after that she might have to lick it. Then, she might take a tiny bite for a few days. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t and I think that might boil down to actual preferences. 

We talk a lot about strong bodies and every mouthful makes us stronger! When she was 5, we used to marvel at the size of her muscles every time she took a bite and she loved that! (Hence the muscles in the picture)  We also used to call swallowing her food her “magic trick” and she would say “tada!” After every mouthful and the whole family would clap! 

We also started growing our food to help Ziva be more connected to the ingredients and it absolutely worked. I remember hanging washing out on the line and she was sneaking over and picking cherry tomatoes off the vine. I kept pretending to “catch” her stealing “my tomatoes” and she thought it was a great game. She laughed her head off! “Well, jokes on you kid, you just ate something good for you!” 😜 Unfortunately, the bi-product of this, is I am now a keen gardener and have poured many $$$ into my veggie patch! 

It was hard for people to understand why she wouldn’t eat and why we didn’t just force her to eat it. While considering our approaches for Ziva, we have done our very best to listen to Autistic voices. After all, they are probably the best people to help us understand what it’s like for our kids! 

I had done a lot of reading on sensory eating related to ASD. Many adults on the spectrum were describing the feeling they get when forced to eat something that is not just a personal preference but a very strong aversion. Physically ill, anxious, fearful. Some that had been hospitalised due to malnutrition because parents had adopted the approach, “they’ll eat it if they are hungry enough.” this might work for picky eating, but not this!  

If I served Ziva foods from her barred list continually, she genuinely wouldn’t eat. She would rather starve herself than put herself through eating it, it’s been that strong! 

She now eats a good diet with enough variance to keep it balanced and interesting. We still give her maids multivitamin to fill in any gaps. She does still struggle a little bit to eat out and try new foods but we are learning! 

Very close to another personal best yesterday in my running! You guys are motivating so much! Thank you! If you haven’t yet, you can still donate! There’s still time! Here’s the link!

25 days of Autism Day 17 - Post a photo of your child showing love.

Ziva has always been SO loving and affectionate. It was part of the reason we second guessed the possibility of Autism! She always knows when you really need a hug too, her timing is always bang on! 

So much of what’s out there about Autism, says that they will struggle in this area; that they won’t know how to show love and affection. 

She did struggle but not in the way “they” said she would. Ziva wanted to hug and kiss everybody! From grandparents (lovely) to a random guy in the mall (not so lovely, and a little scary!) 

I remember on her first day of kindergarten, she met her new male teacher for the first time. He knelt down to talk to her eye to eye…  and without warning, she launched herself at him and bowled him over for a hug! I was a bit mortified but mostly thought it was cute and funny! He, however, was less than impressed…. 😏

If you came to our house, you were likely to have a new “growth” on you. She would sit in your lap, insist she hold your hand, pat your hair. No concept of personal boundaries or social graces whatsoever. 

We loved all of this about Ziva and most people that came to our house did too! As she aged though, it became obvious that these behaviours with perfect strangers were putting her safety at risk. 

So, we had to help her harness that love and affection and use it on the right people. It’s always been really important to us that whatever we do; we don’t squash her beautiful personality in an effort to try to help her navigate the world happily and safely. I worried that if we went about it the wrong way, she would be too scared to hug anyone!

We worked with the school, our Occupational Therapist and Speech therapist at the time to explicitly teach Ziva about the different types of people that she might encounter in her life and the greetings, affections and touch that was appropriate for each group. I’ve attached something that looks similar to the division of groups. 

We’ve had lots of great learnings together about consent and how important it is for her and for other people to have the right to choose whether they want a hug, kiss, high 5 or a Covid appropriate elbow bump! She will almost always ask now. 

Nowadays, if you come to our house she’ll normally greet you with a big happy smile and ask you if she can do your nails and makeup. 😝🤪 We’re getting there!!!

Please enjoy these loved up photos and as you look at them, be reminded of all the work ASPECT do to help kids like Ziva. They help kids to develop and learn life changing skills, all the while prioritising, celebrating and preserving their unique and beautiful personalities! 

If you haven’t heard yet, I’m doing something insane (For me) and running 40kms in 8 days to raise money for ASPECT. I would be grateful for donations of any size at all! It all counts! Hit the link and get behind me!

25 days of Autism Day 16 - Post a photo of your child in nature.

Ziva loves nature, she always has. She loves being in the natural. Big wide open spaces seem to make her feel calm. 

I remember her being tiny and having a favourite tree/bush right near our caravan at Kioloa. It was great. The branches hung right over so that Ziva could get underneath and feel like she was in her own little nature cave.  

My parents have the most amazing mulberry tree out the front of their house and the first photo is of Ziva’s first experience picking the berries. From then on, both girls watch the tree all year. They watch the leaves fall off at the end of the season and they wait patiently for them to regrow and the small fruit to start to develop and ripen. They check it almost every time we get to Nan and Pops place. 

Ziva loves flowers and plants, she loves to garden with me. When she was younger though, I had a hard time trying to stop her from picking the buds off Poppys and my friends plants! She was obsessed. 

I remember one time, being so embarrassed that she had picked all the buds/flowers off my good friends lemon tree while on a play date! I felt awful! It became one of those screening questions you ask before you arrive at someone’s house. “Do you have any allergies for the snacks I’m bringing… and do you have any plants you’re particularly attached to!?”

Her favourite part of nature though, is water! She loves to swim. She was like a moth to a flame when It came to water. She couldn’t resist. Even now, if left unsupervised to wash her hands… she’ll just play with the water until you stop her. 

When she was about 3 or 4, I remember being at a beach entry style pool. I watched her wading in the shallow, ankle deep water and when she started heading for the deeper water I followed and thought to myself. “Oh she’ll turn around….. she won’t keep walking…. Any second now she’ll turn around…. Any second…. Oh my gosh she’s not turning around!!!!” 

She waded in until the water went straight over her head. She didn’t appear to register any fear or acknowledge any danger factor to her current predicament. She just looked up at me from underneath the water as I reached in to grab her. 

I basically got out of the pool and booked her into swimming lessons straight away. This kid is obsessed with water, had no fear and did not recognise how dangerous it can be. A recipe for disaster. 

Swimming lessons were a disaster! She melted down in a regular class multiple times because taking turns was hard, she didn’t understand the instruction, the pool was loud and she was just so overwhelmed. We put her in private one on one classes and got a great instructor, for two terms, before she moved on to a new job. 

Any progress we had made was quickly undone when we cycled through another two instructors that honestly didn’t appear to have much experience with kids, let alone, outside of the mold ones! 

It wasn’t until one lesson I noticed the instructor in the class next to ours, watching the train wreck of a lesson that was happening in our lane. In the last 5 minutes, she popped across into our lesson and began interacting with Ziva. In that 5 minutes, Ziva did more swimming than she had in the last 2 terms! She swam 6 or 7 feet after having sunk like a rock every lesson prior. 

Afterwards I asked her “What would it take for you to teach Ziva next term?” 😂 the rest is history, we basically followed Rhiannon Kocmar all over her schedule. We were in the pool at 7am on Saturdays for a little while there! She just knew how far to push and when to back off. When to ask for more and when to play. The perfect blend of firm but playful, that Ziva so needed. I’ve found this connection and compatibility so important when searching for people to work with Ziva. You could be the most switched on therapist/coach but if that connection isn’t there, progress is slow. 

Ziva is now a very confident swimmer, able to swim laps of the pool with lovely form. She swims every week and loves it. Her form and where she places in a race don’t matter to me though. The main thing for me is knowing that, for the most part, she is safe around water now and she is doing something she enjoys! 💖💖💖

Don’t forget to donate to my run for Autism. All donations received today and Friday put me in the running to win a voucher for athletes foot! 👏🏼

25 days of Autism Day 15 - Post a photo of your child doing a fall activity. (Or if you don’t have one, any holiday themed activity!)

We don’t really do “fall” here so I’ve chosen Easter instead! 

Easter would have to be Ziva’s favourite holiday. At least on par with Christmas! She’s a real sweet tooth and loves that on Easter, she is allowed chocolate for breakfast! 

She loves the warm snuggly pyjamas, dressing gowns and ugg boots that she gets from the Easter bunny. She loves baking and decorating cookies with her sister and I. She loves to watch “Hop” and do all of the Easter colouring in. She loves the hunts with friends and hot cross buns!

It is a low pressure and relaxing holiday, normally just spent with each other! 💖💖💖

25 days of Autism Day 14 - Post a photo of your child communicating in a unique way.

Ziva didn’t really use language meaningfully until she was about 4 or 5. It started with echolalia. 

Echolalia is the repetition of meaningless phrases and sounds that they hear. Sometimes it was immediately repeating what we had said: “Ziva, do you want some cheese?” And she would say “cheese.” (Then we would give her the cheese and she would cry in frustration because….she didn’t want the cheese!) 

Sometimes it was delayed repetition; where she would say something completely random that she might have heard on tv a week or a month earlier. Sometimes particular phrases would stick and she would say them all day every day for weeks. Our favourite was “Toto annihilation” from the movie “Cats and Dogs” but she couldn’t pronounce the L so it was more like “Toto aniawation!” Super cute. 

They were all learned phrases but she had amazing comedic timing. Still does. She’s hilarious. This one time I had toddler Stella in the trolley and Ziva sitting in the bigger part of the trolley.  As I pushed them through the doors into the busy mall, Ziva yelled at the top of her lungs… “Here she is, Boys!” 🤦🏻‍♀️ Mortified doesn’t quite cover it! 

Unbeknown to us, this would be the new phrase for the month. We could not figure out where she had picked it up from. It wasn’t something we said and we have watched everything that she had! Weeks later we were watching the penguins of Madagascar movie and got to the scene where the head penguin unveils an old vending machine he had managed to acquire and announces “here she is, boys!” Bingo, there it was! 🤣

Another time, after watching the movie “Storks,” she introduced her Dad to the guy behind the checkout at Woolies, as “my new girlfriend, she’s from Canada”. 

So many funny moments, I couldn’t possibly continue to list them! It wasn’t all funny though. Her inability to communicate was at times really hard for everyone. Ziva was frustrated when we couldn’t understand her and it was heartbreaking for us to think about never hearing her say goodnight, good morning, Happy Fathers/Mother’s Day, happy Birthday, Merry Christmas or I love you!”

Up until the age of 4, she had never called for me. You know that semi-whingey “Muuuuuum!!!?” that rings through the house a thousand times a day when your kids need something? She didn’t do that and man, I longed for her to call me Mum. Not just repeat it back to me but use it to get my attention, meaningfully and lovingly. 

I remember the time that it first came. I was busy doing something downstairs and heard a “muuumm.” I was so unprepared for it to come from my own child that I thought it was someone outside! But when I looked up the stairs and saw Ziva looking down at me trying to get my attention by calling my name, I was so shocked. I cried big old happy tears. 

Overtime and with intensive speech therapy, Ziva has developed meaningful language. She can communicate her needs and be understood. Her speech patterns are still perhaps a little unexpected but she can be understood well enough and we are working on her conversation skills. She still uses echolalic speech or scripting when uncomfortable or nervous but it’s mostly not noticeable. 

While Ziva was learning to talk, the most useful thing for us was sign language and visual aids or “picture cards.” Used to attach a visual link to words for a brain that’s more wired to process and think in pictures than in words. We had a visual for just about everything. Stuck up on walls In every room of the house and portable ones on a key ring attached to my clothing or around my neck. 

As much as we are grateful for Ziva’s words and progress, we have learnt so much about non-verbal communication during these times. We can say with absolute certainty, communication is so much more than the the words you use. You can say thank you with a smile or a thumbs up and you can say I love you with a hug! 

I hope that you will consider donating any cash that you can spare, to my run for autism. The running begins on the 31st and goes for 8 days. I aim to do 40 kms in 8 days!

25 days of Autism Day 13 - Post a photo of your child at age 3.

3 was a hard age for Ziva. We’ve talked quite a bit about it already but this was around diagnosis time or when we were beginning to understand that things might be a bit different for us. 

Emotions were big, meltdowns were frequent, Ziva struggled to communicate and engage with us and she was often in her own world. We spent much of our time trying to get inside that world and understand her wants and needs. 

Something that a lot of families experience with kids on the spectrum is “wandering”and/or absconding. When she was little, Ziva had a tendency to wander and ignore boundaries. She wouldn’t register that she had gotten too far from Mum or Dad. She almost never looked for us or “checked in.”  

We had to be hyper vigilant in keeping our eyes on her at all times but with the addition of our Stella Bella, that became much, much harder!

The first photo was one of the scariest days of my life! I had dressed Ziva in a brand new outfit (I recall thinking she looked super cute!) and had taken her to Floriade with some Mums from the Mums group that I had joined when Stella was born. 

We sat down on some picnic blankets, right by (maybe 20 feet) some little cubby houses that had been set up as part of Floriade for the kids to play in. I remember putting Ziva’s hat on her and watching her walk over to the cubbies with lots of other kids. I turned around for about 15 seconds to say something to the Mums and give Stella her dummy but when I turned back…. She was GONE! 

I searched all the cubbies, not there. I scanned the crowd. Literally, hundreds of people, didn’t see her.  I began asking people if they had seen her and the first thing they asked me…. “What is she wearing?” Do you think I could remember what she was wearing? I was in such a panic, my brain had actually melted down. I’m a true crime buff and my mind instantly jumped to the worst case scenario! 

The group split up to help me look for her. She had been gone for about 30 minutes by the time we found her. I was walking back to the group to see if anyone had found her, crying hysterically by this time and ready to call the police.  I remember seeing my friend carrying her across the grass at stage 88 and I just dropped to the floor from the relief. 

I scooped her up in my arms and cried and cried and she just looked at me like “what’s your problem?!!!!” She had apparently spotted someone flying a kite across the oval and took off. She had no idea that she was lost or even that I wasn’t there anymore! Needless to say I scrawled my mobile number on Ziva’s arm every time we went into public spaces for a really long time!

This wouldn’t be the last time something like this would happen. We eventually had to bolt every door and window and gate in our home to prevent her from escaping. Parks that weren’t fenced were almost impossible to take her to and if they were anywhere near water, it was a straight up “no!”

We realised that Ziva liked following the rules but the rules had to be clear. “Don’t go too far from Mummy” or “stay close” were too vague for a kid off in her own world and without an instinctual need to check where I was. We swapped them out for “hold the pram,” “hold my hand” and in car parks, “hand on the spot (petrol cap)” with much better success. 

It can happen so fast, you only have to lose concentration or be distracted by your other child for a second… and they’re gone and without a care in the world. 

I was made aware of an abc piece recently that talked about the need to fence parks in Canberra and the comments section was absolutely chockers with judgmental and maybe a little bit naive comments from people that believed we shouldn’t have to fence parks “because people should be watching their kids.” I hope that sharing some of our story helps others to understand why for me, visiting a park that was fenced, was one less thing (in a long list of things) that I had to worry about and allowed me to relax while Ziva played. Even if only a tiny bit! 

Whilst I agree we should be supervising our kids, those comments show we have a really long way to go in  developing understanding and compassion for those that experience life differently in our community. 

Very nearly another pb in my run tonight. Feeling super strong! 💪🏼🏃‍♀️ You can donate to my run for Autism here!

25 days of Autism Day 12 Post a photo of your child on holiday. Do holidays look different for your family?

The girls favourite place in the world would have to be Kioloa Beach Holiday Park on the south coast. My parents have a permanent caravan and annex down there that they often let us use it. They’ve had it since I was a baby, so I grew up spending all of my school holidays there. I have so many lovely memories of beach days, lagoon swims, fishing and prawning with Dad and I made a few, beautiful, life long friends whose families had the same idea! 

I often wonder if it’s their favourite place because it’s actually awesome or because of what it does to me when I’m down there! It’s the most calming, relaxing place  in the world for me and I wonder if they sense that. 

Ziva has always loved Kioloa. The girls call it “Nanny’s beach” and are currently begging me to take them now that lockdown is ending. I think we are all having withdrawals! 

I can’t tell you whether holidays look different for our family because I don’t know anyone else’s experience of family holidays! I can tell you that Ziva loves going on holidays. 

We do tend to give Ziva plenty of notice of the schedule for the holiday so she knows what to expect from each day. I think if we were into backpacking or flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to an itinerary, she wouldn’t cope as well. It’s lucky that I’m a planner by nature and prefer it that way anyway! 

We have had our fair share of challenges whilst on holiday though. I don’t want to paint a picture of us, as parents, that says we always make the best choices. We have made many, many mistakes and I’ll tell you about one of my biggest. 

We had gone to the beach at Kioloa and Ziva would have been no more than 2 - 3. She had been quite unsettled all day and was mostly unable to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. (She didn’t really point or gesture) this meant that we often couldn’t figure out what was wrong when she became upset. 

We had been paddling in the surf with her, throwing her up over the waves as they rolled in. She loved it. Soon after getting back onto the sand and sitting on our towels, she became really whiny and whingey and I became frustrated. I just wanted for us to enjoy the beach and sunshine and being unable to figure out what was wrong all day was wearing me down. I assumed it was just the same sookiness we had been dealing with all day. I took her back down to the water, despite her protests and was desperately trying to get her to cheer up by throwing her around in the water. 

Upon hitting the salty water, her complaint quickly escalated into that instantly recognisable cry, that told me she was actually in pain. I dragged her up to the beach and took down her swim shorts to reveal a blue bottle tightly wrapped around the tops of her thighs. A blue bottle was inside her shorts for the entire time that I was resenting her whining when all she was trying to do is tell me that something was hurting. 

She couldn’t point to the area, say “ouch,” or “hurts.” She couldn’t tell me that she didn’t want to go back into the water for very good reason. She couldn’t explain herself and that must have been so painful and frustrating for her! 

Unfortunately, this was a frequent occurrence in these early days before any meaningful language and communication skills had developed and this did make holidays hard sometimes. I can’t stress enough how valuable speech therapy has been for us but I will go into more detail in a later post!

The great thing about Kioloa is the sheer amount of kids that are there! Many that we know, that are our friends kids and that know us well. But also so many that we’ve never met. So many “guinea pigs” for Ziva to try her newly gained social skills on! If they didn’t work and the interaction bombed, those kids would go home within days and new fresh ones would arrive! 🤣

Her therapists always said after returning from some solid time at Kioloa, her language and social skills had developed so much. I suppose you really notice the difference with a time lapse too. 

I remember this one time, she had done all the “right things.” Met some kids at the park, introduced herself and us. Invited the kids back to our place to feed the birds. She got them all a chair. She offered them some food. All things she had been taught to do to help her make connections. BUT, these beautiful little kids, when offered potato chips to eat, said “No thank you.”

Unfortunately, this didn’t match the script that Ziva had in her head. They were supposed to accept the chips and when they didn’t, she didn’t know what to do! It resulted in a rather large meltdown for my sweet little girl that had tried so hard. 

The great thing about kids at that age though, is that they are very forgiving. Those kids came back the next day and asked for Ziva to come and feed the birds with them. Bless their heart!

I guess if anything, holidays might be different for us because I find it so hard to switch off. Constantly, looking for learning opportunities for Ziva or trying to stay 2 - 3 steps ahead of a meltdown. Even though, it’s been a really long time since we’ve had one… I don’t think that mode of operating will ever leave me and that’s ok. It may serve me well as we enter into the teenage years! 

Only 13 more days before my mammoth run begins! Thank you so much to everyone that has been reading and those that have donated! This is very therapeutic for me and your messages of support really do mean a lot! 

You can still donate here!

25 days of Autism Day 11 - post a photo of your child with a sibling/cousin/friend.

Trigger warning: pregnancy loss.

When we found out Stella was another gorgeous baby girl, we were so excited. Ziva was going to have a sister and we were going to have another daughter to love! I have a sister who I love dearly and to be able to give that to Ziva (and our new little girl) made me truly happy.

When Stella was born, Ziva wasn’t unhappy about it but wasn’t happy about it either. She was indifferent to Stella. She didn’t want to hold her, sing to her, give her toys. Nothing. It definitely made me sad! 

It took me months to get a decent photo of them together because Ziva was such a whirlwind. If I did get them in the same frame, it was brief and one or both of them weren’t in focus or were facing the wrong way! One of the photos I’ve shared is Ziva poking her sister in the eye. I took what I could get. Poor Stella. 🤣

When Z was diagnosed, it all made a little bit more sense but… we found ourselves wondering, “would she ever bond with her sister? Would they ever be friends and connect like we had hoped that they would?” Again, the future was uncertain and we had no idea what to expect.

Luckily, Stella was and is an absolute firecracker of a kid and would NOT be ignored! She pushed her way into Ziva’s heart whether Ziva liked it or not! As Stella became more animated and playful as a baby, Ziva began to engage with her more… in little ways at first. She would play peek a boo or make faces at her and Stella would make them back. Ziva liked acting crazy and making Stella laugh. 

Pretty soon, they were inseparable. Stella followed Ziva everywhere and called her “Sissy!” She still does actually. Their relationship  has blossomed into something truly unique and  beautiful and I’m so grateful that they have each other! (Although, lockdown has caused more fighting than usual!) 

Things were hard for a pretty long time and I thought, in my misguided and fearful mind, that Autism had robbed us of a 3rd child and the big family we had dreamed of. I just couldn’t see how we could have a 3rd and still be able to manage.

Well, we got better at managing everything, Ziva was coming along in leaps and bounds and my perspective was slowly but surely changing. It felt like there was someone missing from our family and we knew our family wasn’t quite complete. 

In 2017, we fell pregnant and were so excited to welcome another little love into our crazy chaotic life! With two pregnancies carried to term and beyond, we were naive in thinking that this one would be equally smooth. We told the kids, 2 and 5 at the time, early at about 5 weeks and there was so much excitement. So much different to when we told Ziva she was going to be a big sister for the first time.

Ziva in particular was so excited. She sang to my belly and told me she’d dreamed the baby was a boy. She talked about her brother all the time. 

When our dating scan showed that the baby had stopped growing, that we were experiencing a missed miscarriage, we were devastated. That devastation was amplified and prolonged due to having to break the news to the kids. 

Stella moved on quickly, having the cognitive ability to comprehend the concept that the baby wasn’t there anymore. Ziva didn’t. She continued to sing to her baby brother and rub my tummy and I had to remind her over and over and over that the baby was gone. 

She would process the information and we would move on but then the next day, it was like she had forgotten. Maybe singing to her brother had become a repetitive behaviour that she was having trouble controlling? I’m not sure. Very painful time. My love goes to anyone whose experienced pregnancy or infant loss. (timely sharing of this story with pregnancy and infant loss awareness day yesterday!)

We decided to keep trying for our third child, earth side. Ziva, bless her heart, prayed to Jesus almost every night from the age of 7, for another baby to love. After a long fertility journey, Mr Reed finally joined our family in 2020 and he is the perfect full stop to our little family. Ziva’s prayers had been answered and she just loves him so much! We all do. 

We’ve just loved watching both girls dote on and mother him, something that we missed out on when Stella was born. I’ve shared the video of Ziva holding Reed for the first time. It’s so sweet! 

When you have a child that has additional needs, you know that there is a good chance that they will need help and support long after you are gone and that can be really scary to think about. I take great comfort in knowing that Ziva will have beautiful siblings that love her and will keep and eye out for her, when we no longer can! 

I’m so moved and blown away by all of your support. From the bottom of my heart , thank you! 

If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, you can donate to my run for Autism here!

25 days of Autism Day 10 - Post a photo of your child on their birthday. Explain the picture.

Ziva loves a good party. All the sweet treats and unattended esky ice! Heaven! It’s only when we try to impose upon her, expectations and standards by which she must abide, that things start to go awry. 

I remember when she was four or five, wanting so badly for her to play a game of pass the parcel with the other kids but she just couldn’t sit still in the circle, wait her turn, open only one layer and pass it on. It always resulted in a melt down and I stopped forcing the issue! It was more important that she was happy and comfortable, than it was for her to participate in this traditional party game. That’s not to say that my Mumma heart didn’t break that she couldn’t enjoy this activity like all the other kids. 

We learnt early on that the pressure of a traditional party; with party games that have rules and lines and lots of noise will likely become overwhelming and feel like hard work for her. Conversely, unstructured free play, leaves her more often then not, struggling to join a game or connect with the other kids. 

So, like any parents, we have looked for and chosen party options that are an activity that can be enjoyed alongside other kids but comes with no pressure to converse and understand complex game rules. We never wanted her birthday to feel like work for her. 

This is a picture of us at her 4th and 5th birthday! We chose a trampolining place for her 4th and an indoor swimming pool for her 5th and both were a complete success! 

There’s no ground breaking message here. If anything, it’s that we are like everyone else when it comes to planning a party for their child. We plan the party that suits OUR child. What she will love and get the most enjoyment out of on a day that is about celebrating her, just the way she is. 💖

I would love it if you could throw some financial support my way for my run for Autism. All funds go directly to helping people and families with ASD.

Ps. The training is well underway so that I don’t suffer a massive coronary half way through my run. I absolutely smashed a 5km personal best today and am feeling strong and motivated by all your love! (Shaved about 3 minutes off my time)🏃‍♀️ 

25 days of Autism Day 9: Post a photo of something that makes your child unique

I think there is a common misconception that if you’re on the spectrum, you fit into this whole demographic of people that are also on the spectrum. That an Autism Diagnosis means you must be like “x.” What I’ve realised though, is they are all as different from each other as you are from your friends or any person for that matter. (Which is what leads me to ask the question over and over and over “What is normal?”) They say “if you know some one on the spectrum, you know one person on the spectrum.” They are all sooooo different! 

When we received the report on Ziva’s diagnosis, we were told that people on the spectrum lacked empathy. She would struggle to see others point of view and put herself in their shoes. That it is unlikely that she will to be able to express and show us love in a way that we might expect. 

That night, I was reading her “The Lion King” as a bed time story. She was 3, couldn’t really talk and when reading, I was often not even sure if she was absorbing any of the story. We got to the bit when Simba’s Dad, Mufasa, dies in a stampede. Simba is desperately trying to wake his Dad and coming to the realisation that he has passed. 

As I’m reading, I’m shocked to see tears welling up and rolling down my sweet little girls cheeks. I asked what was wrong and she just pointed at the picture of Mufasa, wobbled her bottom lip and cried some more…. “No empathy my foot” I said to Sage as I returned downstairs. 

She has shocked me many times since but most memorably, when she was 6. We used to visit my elderly Nanna weekly if not fortnightly and the girls loved going to see “Gramma.” She had 100’s of kids movies and always had a “chockie bikkie” for them. 

This one time, there was only 1 biscuit left. Gramma broke it in half and handed them a half each and said “that’s the laaaast one!” 

Stella, a girl after my own heart, scoffed her half of the biscuit in 1 mouthful. Exactly what I would have done. She’s definitely my daughter. 💖🤣

Ziva took her half, looked and Gramma, looked at me…. And then promptly broke her half a biscuit into 3. She had noticed that Gramma and I wouldn’t get any and that just wouldn’t do! 😭 

She has the sweetest little heart and empathy in spades! So much so that I think it causes her difficulties in other ways! Like if one of her classmates is having a bad day, she gets very upset on their behalf. She feels very very deeply. (Also a sign that she is definitely, my daughter!)

Ziva is different, she is wonderfully unique…. But what makes her truely unique is her empathetic and kind soul. She is an absolute diamond and I’m so glad she is mine! 💎💎💎

Whilst we’ve reached our original goal of $2000 for ASPECT, The overall goal that aspect has set, has a long way to go and will appreciate any $$$ you can throw their way! You can do that here!

25 days of Autism Day 8 - Post a photo of your child with an animal.

“What can we do to help us feel better if we are feeling sad Ziva?” I asked as part of her Social and Emotional Learning remote learning assignment. 

“Hug a cute doggie Mumma, that always makes me feel better!” 

Ziva has always had a real affinity with animals and nature. She’s always wanted to be outside and wants to pat every creature she sees. It took a lot of work to get to a point where she would ask to pat someone’s dog AND wait for the response before patting it. She still forgets some times! 🤣

Jersey and Oreo were a part of the family before she was born. So, she simply doesn’t know a life without animals in it. 

Just now, she has told her speech therapist that when she grows up she will have 3 dogs 4 cats and 100 birds living with her! A real menagerie! I hope she doesn’t expect her Dad to come over with all those cats and birds! (Not his favourite) 

She becomes obsessed with one particular animal for long chunks of time before moving onto the next. She learns everything about them and draws them constantly. At the moment it’s peacocks 🦚  but for a really long time it was dolphins. 

When we were heading to Coffs Harbour for a holiday we began planning and found the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park where you can meet, pat and swim with dolphins! We knew that she would absolutely LOVE it! That is, If we could manage waiting in a line, waiting our turn, keeping still and following instruction. I was skeptical that we’d be able to do it but when I contacted them and explained our situation, they were amazing and so accomodating! 

Honestly, I thought it was going to be a fail and she wouldn’t be able to do it. I wanted to let her try though because the pay off would be so worth it! On the day, I was so nervous that it would end in tears over a queue, or having to wait or even worse, she would startle the animal and she could be hurt! 

We used a few tried and true strategies to get through.

  • “First and Then” where you use visuals to remind her that in order to pat the dolphin, we first have to wait. “First, we wait. Then we pat the dolphin” This had helped us when she was younger to understand the difference between “no” and “not yet.”
  • Counting the people in front of us every time someone left the queue so it was clear how long we had to wait.
  • Calm body, deep breathes and gentle hands reminders. (I ordinarily don’t care about “calm body” and don’t stop her from stimming but it was a safety issue this day)
  • I also paid to interact with the dolphin.  Both to assist in keeping her calm and safe but also because I really wanted to pat a dolphin too! 😜

It was a raging success and I’m so glad we did it! She still talks about it often 5 years later and says that Coffs Harbour and The Big Banana are the most magical places in the world! 

I learnt that day to not hold her back, because I had decided it would be too hard for her. To always let her try because if she doesn’t, we’ll never know! 💖 Look at that face!? Worth the risk!

The link to donate to my run for Autism is here! If you haven’t already, consider throwing some $$$ in ASPECT’s direction!

25 days of Autism Day 7 - Post a photo of your child with a family member. Explain their relationship. How is it different?

Cousins are so special. They are friends that Ziva doesn’t have to work for, that love her as she is. They are Brothers and Sisters that I don’t have to raise!!! 😏🤣

Ziva has lots of cousins. There’s Rhys and Brooklyn on the Central Coast, Josiah and Micah in Melbourne. Alleria in Canberra. Andy, Izzy, Jess and Ben in Geelong and Amelia, Logan, Isaac and Abbie in Tasmania. We are very lucky to have a big, wonderful crazy extended family to love! 

This is Rhys. My sisters son and one of the most spectacular kids I have ever met! 💙  He’s almost 2 years older than Ziva. They have grown up sharing Christmas’s, Easters’, birthdays and random mid year visits between Canberra and where they live on the central coast! 

Watching their relationship develop over time has been very special and has really highlighted how important and valuable having a good, healthy family network can be for kids on the spectrum. 

Shan and I have talked about how it’s important and valuable, not just for Ziva but for Rhys and all Ziva’s cousins too!  Here is why….

One Christmas, Shan and her family came to Canberra early and we organised to meet at the arboretum playground. The kids were so excited to see each other and greeted each other with shouts, a long run up and big hugs!

Brooklyn and Stella took off together and Rhys and Ziva excitedly ran off to join the fun. Rhys first with Ziva following behind. 

At the arboretum playground there is chamber that you have to run though to get to the climbing netting tunnel that leads to a gigantic slide that Ziva would LOVES. 

In the first chamber there is a piece of play equipment that allows children to play with noise and how it vibrates and echoes in the chamber. They bang on things and make loud noises. 

At the time, there were a couple of kids in there having a great time making lots of noise. (Good on them! 😄) Rhys ran through the chamber, ignoring the noise, excited to climb up to the impressive slide. Ziva stood, stopped at the entrance to the chamber with her hands firmly over her ears, not able to cope with the noise. Rhys, looked back for Ziva, saw that she was struggling, climbed backwards through the netting, put his arm around Ziva and said “Come on Ziva, let’s go this way. I don’t really want to go down the slide yet” 😭😭😭 and they ran over to start a game of hide and seek. 

My eyes welled up with tears to see this act of inclusion that came so naturally to him. He didn’t even bat an eyelid or give it a second thought. His cousin was struggling and he wanted to make sure she was included in whatever it was they were doing; even if that meant abandoning what he wanted to do. At 8 years old, he had more compassion and care for Ziva and her struggles than I have seen in many fully grown adults. 

This is what it means to know and love someone that is different. It changes you, it moulds you into a more compassionate, accepting and inclusive human. 


We are raising the adults of tomorrow. If we want to do our bit to create a more compassionate, accepting and tolerant world in the future; let’s starts by teaching our kids about neurodiversity, how to embrace and celebrate difference and not be scared of it. To always act with kindness and compassion.

So, if you see the kid at the park flapping and spinning or making unexpected noises. Don’t be scared of them. Teach your children not to be scared of them. See it as an opportunity to teach your child about difference. Try saying hi and see if you can include them in a game that is suitable for their abilities. Strike up a conversation with their parent or carer. Ask questions. Goodness knows, they could probably use a friend or someone to talk to! 

If you haven’t already, please consider donating to Autism Spectrum Australia on my behalf as I lace up my runners and run 40kms in 8 days! Yipes! 😂

25 days of Autism Day 6 - post a photo of you when you were your lowest as a Mumma and nobody knew.

This one is going to be a little bit heavy so I’d like to include a trigger warning here. We will be discussing mental health challenges that may be uncomfortable and emotional. If you are feeling fragile at the moment, you may like to come back to this one at another time. 

This is intensely personal for me but something I think needs to be shared/discussed if we are going to move forward with understanding and helping families that love someone with Autism; or really any neurological difference or additional needs. (Although my experience is limited to Autism, GDD and SPD) 

I want to start by saying that none of my mental health challenges have been as a direct result of loving a little person that’s a different kind of brilliant! Rather, the associated challenges that are created by societal pressure, ineffective support strategies, red tape and rigmarole to access that support. The constant fight to advocate and get my daughter what she needs from a world not built for her neurology. She’s exactly who she’s meant to be and wonderful just the way she is. It’s the world that’s broken in my opinion!

I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when Ziva was about 2 years old. Apart from a brief brush with insomnia in high school, it was the first experience I’d had with suffering mental health challenges. It’s suspected that it was actually post natal depression and would have been diagnosed as such, should I have done anything about it before it became critical. I began medication and talk therapy and gained some really amazing strategies for de-escalating my thought patterns and calming my mind.

When Ziva was diagnosed, all those strategies went out the window.  As much as all of the above is 100% true it would be dishonest to say that Ziva’s diagnosis didn’t affect me emotionally.  

When you have a baby, you immediately imagine who they will be when they grow up. You think about what amazing things they will achieve in their life time. What they’ll do for a living, who they’ll love, where they’ll travel to. You imagine attending their graduations, helping them move in to a new home, attending their wedding. When you get a diagnosis like this, it comes with a whole lot of unknowns. Everything you thought reasonable and fair to expect for their lives, is now called into question and the future becomes very muddy. 

Honestly, it felt very much like grief. Like there was a loss, only there wasn’t. She was still very much here, happily flapping and giggling in front of us. You see, it was an imaginary person we felt like we had lost. That person never existed and was formed in our minds out of societal norms and expectations we’d witnessed our entire lives! Ziva hadn’t changed since she had a diagnosis, she was still our little ray of sunshine and our love for her was unchanged and unending. 

The above realisation took a long time to come to, much longer than I care to admit. But when it did, the freedom I felt was immeasurable. Ziva was going to be, all of my kids were going to be, we were going to be …. just fine. Living life completely free of what the world expects from us, taking one day at a time and nothing for granted! What a blessing! 

The photo I have chosen is from when Stella was about 6 months old. I still hadn’t arrived at my new perspective as detailed above. I still was truly terrified of Autism and what it meant for us. I didn’t know of all the joy, laughs and unique experiences we had to come!

 I was trying to enjoy my new baby girl but spent many late nights obsessing over her milestones and “looking” for early signs that she too would be on the spectrum. Every flap of her arms sent me spiralling into a mad googling frenzy and I struggled to enjoy the time. I feel truly robbed of her babyhood to this day. 

I was battling with the NDIS to maintain funding for therapies because they were trying to halve it with no real justification. I was struggling with fitting in all of the therapy, choosing the right therapy, working and running a household, unsure about the future and terrified I was doing it all wrong and failing my little girl! 

Stella had been sleeping through the night for months. I was getting a solid 10 hours a night of sleep but I was just exhausted and fatigued all the time. I had gone back on medication for anxiety and depression weeks earlier. I was putting on weight despite a pretty good diet and semi- regular exercise. 😏When I couldn’t make it up one flight of stairs in my home without stopping for a break, I went to the doctor. We ran some tests and discovered that I had developed the autoimmune disease named Hashimotos, a thyroid condition. I personally believe that Hashimotos is hereditary but triggered by environmental factors. In this case, stress. 

The stress of navigating the system, fighting for services, advocating for and supporting my child, feeling isolated and alone in my mothering journey, had manifested itself in my physical body and I felt so defeated! I take medication every day to keep my thyroid function ticking along… apparently for the rest of my life. 

I have recently been exploring some other mental health symptoms that have cropped up and it’s been noted that I have markers for PTSD, triggered by witnessing parents struggle in public places, monitoring the health and development of my new baby boy and other children in my life and in some cases, dealing with the NDIS. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m truly grateful for the funding that allows me to obtain otherwise unaffordable therapies for Ziva, it’s just so damn hard to navigate!)

The impact of a child’s diagnosis on their parents is not to be diminished. It is a life altering experience. However, the truly hard part is not the neurology, behaviours or “quirks” of our child but the hoops we are asked to jump through in order to help them. The paperwork and forms and the constant deficit based conversations to prove we need help. The constant battling to be heard, understood and supported. The judgement from others that don’t understand… yet!

It is my hope that parents in the future don’t go through some of the trauma that I have in navigating a diagnosis like this. That they are educated well on both the challenges and the strengths their child may possess. That their mental health is monitored and cared for as a matter of standard practise. That they are well positioned to give their child the best opportunities that they can!

If you haven’t already, please consider a donation to ASPECT and help fund a brighter future for those yet to be diagnosed and begin their journey! Let’s look after the whole unit, parents included!   

Thank you for reading and for all your support!

25 days of Autism Day 5 - post a photo of your child at age 2

Ziva was an energetic and busy 2 year old. She certainly kept us on our toes! She had these giant oversized blue eyes that just absolutely sparkled!  I loved this age so much! 

Age 2 was when we started noticing that Ziva had some atypical sensory processing needs. Let’s talk about that!

Ziva LOVED the swing! Like, LOVED it. I know what you’re thinking… “So do most kids don’t they?” No, this was an obsession. When we got to the park, she would scream until it was her turn on the swing (as she really struggled with regulating emotions whilst waiting in a line or to take turns), would stay on it for as long as she could and then scream as soon as she had to stop. We found ourselves wondering… “are all kids like this about swings!? This is insane!” 

We’ve since learnt that activities like swinging, spinning, flapping etc are all forms of input for the vestibular system. A crucial system that, when functioning well, aids in the childs development. What we were actually seeing from Ziva was an under active sensory receptor to vestibular input combined with an inability to communicate! (Resulting in the screaming) With an under active sensory receptor, she would seek out more and more input. Hence, constantly moving, jumping, dancing, swinging, climbing. 

I remember she would take a run up and launch herself into me over and over and over again and I couldn’t work out why? We worked out this was giving her much needed vestibular input from both the run up and the impact when she hit my body. 

A lot of people, when they hear “Autism” imagine a person rocking in a corner, covering their ears, trying to block out overwhelming sensory input like loud noises, smells, lights etc. this is the reality for many people on the Autism Spectrum. My understanding is that this is the result of an overactive sensory receptor; whereby the person is sensitive to sensory input and therefore cannot cope with very much at all. What people don’t know is that a person on the spectrum can have either version of sensory processing difficulties and sometimes a combination of both! The spectrum is so varied! More on that later!

Ziva LOVED hugs, not just a hug, it had to be tight! She was SO affectionate which wasn’t what I had read online about people with Autism. Another reason we second guess ourselves in the early days. (As did plenty of professionals who hadn’t kept up with the research into Autism) Again, this was because she was seeking input for her under active sensory processing system. 

She would go into the shower and tip out all the shampoo and conditioner because it made her feel good to play with it. She would rub it on her face, in her hair. She would hold it up and watch it drip. 

She developed something called PICA. PICA is an eating disorder that involves eating items that are not typically thought of as food and that don’t contain significant nutritional value. In Ziva’s case, she would eat and still does eat if left unsupervised: paper, blue tack and playdoh. It can also include an abnormal appetite for things that may be considered food. I’m Ziva’s case, Ice cubes! We had to keep a close eye on her at BBQ’s or she would get stuck into eskys! All of this is also linked to her sensory processing profile. 

Once we learnt all of this about our beautiful little ray of sunshine, we were better placed to know what kind of activities and settings were going to be best for her to learn in! We used it to our advantage, knowing what she needed for her brain to function at its best was crucial! She learnt her alphabet and counting, jumping on a trampoline and swinging on a swing. She learnt social skills and following directions on horse back! I arrived 30 minutes before pre school started so that I could push her on a swing until school started so that she would start the day with that particular need met. It seemed to help her settle and join in, not distracted by her urge to move.  Even now, we build in plenty of movement breaks into her learning! 

When she would have a meltdown, I found that the best thing for her was for me to either pick her up and rock her like a baby or squeeze her really tight until it passed. (Imagine, 5 year old being rocked, in the middle of the mall… queue more judgemental looks and comments “that child should be walking, she needs a good smack!” 😭) I now have an incredibly strong back and very thick skin! 🤣🤣🤣

Again, all of these learnings didn’t just come to me! We were supported and educated by amazing therapists through ASPECT and other similar companies.

Please consider supporting me in my run for Autism! Help ASPECT continue to deliver life changing therapies, programs and education for those that need it! No donation is too small! 💖💖💖

25 days of Autism Day 4 - Post a photo of a milestone

I couldn’t pick just one… You see, the very unique and wonderful thing about raising a differently abled mini human, is that we celebrate literally everything. Nothing is ever taken for granted or expected! Our little people work so hard for every gain, that when it happens we want to throw a party for them! 

That’s a lot of celebrating and I’m actually grateful that we have that mind set. Everything our children do, blow our minds and rock out world and that brings us a lot of joy! Even things that most parents would prefer they didn’t learn to do!

I’ll never forget the day that Ziva told us a lie! She told me that she hadn’t already had a cookie but she absolutely had. (forgive us for the American term, we grew up working at subway after all!) 

Most parents would have been sad or disappointed that the inate honesty and innocence of their child was gone and there likely would have been consequences for the lie! Not us! We cheered! Telling us a lie, demonstrated a massive leap in cognitive development! To be able to acknowledge that an untruth would result in a more favourable outcome for her and make that choice is actually very complex! Of course we explained that lying is not a good choice but inside we were cheering!

Here we have a photo of Ziva on a swing and I believe, if memory serves; This was the first outing without a nappy. She was 4.5 years old.  We actively toilet trained from 2 years old. That’s right, no toilet training in 3 days program here. We worked with a very supportive and knowledgeable occupational therapist, Samantha Whybrow. Samantha has become an extension of the Brown family with how involved and valued she has been in helping our family. (An original ASPECT therapist that has seen Ziva from the age of 3) We love her dearly! 💖💖💖

We did sticker charts, rewards, toilet timing, went through countless pairs of undies, cartoon videos that explicitly explained the process of using the toilet in great detail. (Very uncomfortable for all of us 😂 but most beneficial for Ziva and the way she learns) We had visuals stuck up in every toilet that were a step by step process of how to use the toilet, flush and wash hands. We used to joke with guests when showing them to the toilet, that the visuals are there if they suddenly forget what’s next! 🤣

Day care and pre school worked with us and communicated regularly and dealt with their fair share of accidents and we are so grateful that they showed her such love and compassion! 

The hardest part, mostly towards the end of our toilet training marathon, was the opinions of others that would be thrust upon us. If I had to change Ziva’s nappy whilst out and use a baby change area, I’d often be joining mummas with beautiful new bubbas. They often travelled in pairs or groups and I would undoubtedly witness raised eyebrows and exchanges of judgemental looks between them. I had even heard on occasion one mother say to the other, “little *Josie*, will absolutely be toilet trained by then!” With a scoff. I wanted to explain that we had been trying, for a long time and that the situation is different. But… why should I have to!? It’s not hard to be kind. 

I accepted from early on that any progress that Ziva made would be in her own time. She was on her own trajectory and that was ok. I’ve tried hard not to compare but I’m not going to lie, sometimes it is hard not to. Sage is very good for reminding me that the goal is not for Ziva to be like every one else. We don’t want to make her “normal” or have her pretending to be someone that she isn’t! (What even is normal!?) The goal is for her to be happy and thriving, authentically herself and live a long and meaningful (to her) life! All of that has nothing to do with what everyone else is doing! 💖💖💖

Ive included photos but there are so many more. Writing her name, riding a bike, swimming a lap of the pool, saying “I love you” to Sage and I, calling me Mum for the first time at age 4 😭, counting, reading, dressing herself and so many more! None of which have come naturally or quickly or without an insane amount of work by Ziva. She is the hardest working kid I know. 

Please help to make all that hard work count, for Ziva and for so many other kids and donate to my run for Autism with all proceeds going to Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT)!

25 days of Autism Day 3 - Post a back to school photo of your child

First day of kindy! She was so anxious but put on such a brave face! 

What it took to get here is quite unbelievable when I write it all out like this. 

Ziva went to daycare a few days a week from about 12 months old while Sage and I had to work. The child care centre has ended up seeing all 3 of our children over a span of about 10 years total and I have not been able to fault them, even with added complications! 

They always made us feel welcome and valued in the community. They did there absolute best to support Ziva. They helped her to make connections as best she could with others and participate with her class. They provided accomodations for her difficulties with eating, they modified the program and the delivery and applied for additional funding to secure a higher educator to child ratio to keep her and others safe. We love being a part of the family there, especially now with Reed going there too!

When Ziva went to preschool we came to realise just how accomodating our day care centre had been! Ziva was so anxious and overwhelmed in the new environment that she would abscond and climb the fence, melt down, refuse to eat, couldn’t participate and was generally unhappy at pre school. We were called or emailed by the school almost every day and frequently went to pick her up when things weren’t going well. It broke my heart that she was so unhappy and I often felt like we were making things hard for the teacher and her classmates. 

Eventually, we were told that she can not attend pre school full time as they couldn’t support her and keep her safe. So, she went for a couple of hours a day with the intention to build up to full time as she became more comfortable. She was on reduced hours for the remainder of the year… but at least she was happier!

When the time came to think about big school, it was important that we found the right schooling setting for Ziva. Our options were: 

  • Specialty schooling -  she would go to school with lots of kids with additional medical needs and kids like her. 
  • Mainstream schooling with all the other kids with a little bit of extra support.
  • A Unit within a mainstream public school where she would be with other kids either on the spectrum or with additional medical needs but still be a part of the wider public school. 

What we had noticed about Ziva in particular is that whatever she learnt, she began by mimicking others. TV shows, movies and other children that we knew. But, there was no way she could cope in a mainstream kindy class with all the noise, distraction and expectations there. It’s for this reason that we, in consultation with the school and school psychologist, decided to opt for an Autism unit within a mainstream school. We figured, that way she could get the academic and educational attention she needed in a small class setting that caters for her neurological difference but with exposure to typically developing children in the hopes that she would learn, through mimicking, some valuable play, speech and general social skills. 

I began talking to the school psychologist and a rep from the department of education - disability services about the next steps. I was told I would need to choose a top 3 units that I would like her to go to and that not every school had a unit so I was given a list and sent on my way. 

I visited about 10 schools. Researched their policy on inclusion, playground safety, bullying and so on. I interviewed principles and deputies. I looked at whether they were well fenced and safe for a kid that had historically run away on the regular. We also considered the location and I asked for friends experiences and recommendations…. I . DID. MY. RESEARCH! (My sister would be laughing at me while reading this… of course I did!)

We picked 3 schools that were top of the pack in our opinion and we were happy to have finally felt in control of something in a time when we felt so out of control! We submitted all the documents and waited ……and waited…..and waited. 

The day I got the phone call to tell me the placement we were being offered… is probably the most angry and defeated I have ever felt. 

We were being offered a placement on the other side of town (adding an hour of travel to our day) that wasn’t in our top 3 or even on our radar. I had squeezed all of this research, meetings and interviews into my chaotic days with pre school drop offs, pick ups, therapies and a new gorgeous little bubba only for my preferences to be completely ignored!  Writing this now, I realise I’m still pretty angry?! 😂 

We were told that our top 3 schools placements had been taken by families that lived “in area” for that school. I ask you, how could we have ever gotten a placement in a unit when our “in area” school had no unit!? We would continually be pipped at the post by “in area” families. Thankfully I think this practise has changed since.

I expressed dissatisfaction pretty strongly; the most assertive I’ve ever been. (Prior to having kids, I found this very hard… I’m still learning really)  I wrote a very strongly worded letter in my head at 3am that night but never sent it. I was honestly, just too exhausted! 

I posted on fb and had a giant whinge. A lovely friend that I had been lucky enough to meet on the autism train contacted me and told me that she had just declined a position at a local school in favour of another. So, if I’m quick, There’s no reason they couldn’t offer it to me. Kelly Wood. What an absolute queen!

Well I jumped straight in the car to visit the school and got on the phone to the education department. I didn’t ask, I demanded, that they hold that spot until I could see the school. 

Very luckily, the school was a perfect fit. Small, fully fenced, a nice calm space for if she got overwhelmed, lots of sensory input   and more of a rarity in autism units, another little girl in what would be her class! Boys are diagnosed 4 times as much as girls, or something like that) 😍💓 Jackie Maloney

Ziva’s school experience has for the most part been beautifully supported at this school. She attended full time from the beginning. I never once had to pick her up because she or they weren’t coping (except to meet them at the hospital when she ate an unidentified mushroom on the play ground. Won’t eat spaghetti, but dirty mushroom, straight out of the mud. Yes please!!! 🤣) we have many people to thank for this and many others that we are not connected to on fb. 

We were lucky that Ziva had been so well prepared for her first day and was able to cope well with her anxiety on the first day. For so many, this is not the case and you may not see a happy back to school photo of them and that is the unfortunate realities of anxiety! Love to all those that this is true for. 

Next time you see a back to school photo of a kid on the Autism Spectrum, please consider this story and be reminded of the likelihood that, that photo may be the culmination of an absolute marathon for both parent and child! 

ASPECT therapists have attended school meetings to support me in advocating for my child. They run specialist schools and programs to support children’s education. They provide respite for exhausted parents with limited options to take a break! They are so worthy of your hard earned $$$ and I ask you to consider sending some their way at the following link.   

Thanks for reading! I’m off for a run… I suppose I should train for this hey!?

25 days of Autism Day 2 - Post a photo of your child post diagnosis.

Diagnosis Day! This is a really vivid memory for me. We were picking up copies of reports from our doctor before dropping Ziva to day care and heading out to ACT therapy in Holder to get the results of the Autism Assessment. She was super happy and dancing along to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams and I just remember thinking “Man, I love that kid! Whatever happens, the main thing is that she stays this happy.”

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the journey to diagnosis and what that was like!  It’s going to be a long one so get a cup of tea! (Or something harder if your day has been anything like mine!)

I first noticed Ziva’s speech had seemingly slowed in development at age 18 months. Sage and I talked about it and agreed we would keep an eye on it. We asked everyone we knew, family and friends what they thought and everyone would say the same thing. “All kids develop differently!” “ “She’s just working on the motor skills first” “ Her speech will improve, don’t worry!” Beautiful, well meaning people that loved us, not wanting us to be worried. 

I was worried though… and anyone who knows me will know that this is a permanent state of being for me. So,  it’s nothing new! 

Sage and I spent many months violently switching back and forth between denial and worry, denial and worry. Neither of us really wanted to accept that something might be “wrong!” (I’ll clarify the use of that word later)

It wasn’t until day care called a meeting and explained that Ziva really wasn’t participating like the other kids, forming relationships or developing in a way that they would expect, that it finally sunk in. It was time. There was no room for denial now and our girl needed help! 

It was a truly strange mix of pain, guilt (over lost time) and relief to have someone agree with us and say that we were right to be worried! We had felt like we were going crazy! 

We raised it with our gp and she recommended we have Ziva’s hearing tested while we wait to get into a paed as this is normally the first thing they ask for. 

We booked in and got Ziva’s hearing tested and found out that she had something called “glue ear.” A fluid build up in the ear that was causing significant hearing loss. We thought, “Well that’s it then! She can’t hear us so of course she’s not learning any new words!” 

Ziva had grommet surgery to drain the fluid and we were told that we should notice an improvement almost immediately. We didn’t. We noticed she could hear better (responding to a bird or a noise outside) but her speech had actually regressed. 

We were preparing for the paed appointment and looking at our list of her words and realised she hadn’t said any of these words in a long while and come to think of it, she had only ever just repeated those words when we asked her to but never used them independently. 

She also developed a whole bunch of new behaviours in that time. She walked on her tippy toes, span in circles, flapped her arms, barely made eye contact and didn’t answer to her name a lot! She had huge “tantrums” that we now know were sensory meltdowns.  She never lined things up but she bunched them in the corner of her dolls house, often sorting them into colours or themes. We noticed that she never showed us stuff. We were constantly chasing her trying to show her stuff. She never found something interesting and bought it to us like so many other kids did. I now know this is called a lack of joint attention.

When I put all of this into doctor google night after night, it came up with Autism. Let me tell you, Dr Google paints a pretty scary picture of Autism and I’m here to tell you that that needs to change!!!!

We went in to the paediatricians office and told her all about it! She told me she thought she was “just” delayed. She sent us for a Griffiths assessment to diagnose global development delay, connected us with an early intervention group but said she doesn’t think it’s autism (she has empathy and is too social! - a common misconception for girls on the spectrum) but she would ‘humour me” and send us for assessment to put my mind at ease! 🤨😝we walked out of the that appointment with a wad of papers, referrals and phone numbers to call and were completely overwhelmed!

After a diagnosis of Global Development Delay (GDD), we joined an early intervention group. Up until then, I often felt alone in the mothering world! I knew no one else who’s child was “a different kind of brilliant.” It was painfully lonely and isolating, always feeling different and not truely knowing why! “Why couldn’t we enjoy the park?” Why couldn’t I take Ziva into the mall without a meltdown?” “Was it this hard for everyone else?!”

Then I met another little girl and her mother at the group and I felt like I had met our twins. Hallelujah! Talking to the little girl was just like talking to my Z and I recognised in her mother so much of myself! (Truly grateful to have met you Danielle Ferguson and for the beautiful friendship that ensued! x)

We struck up a conversation and she told me that her daughter had just been diagnosed… with Autism. And I knew. This was it. I knew what the result of the autism assessment would be and I was terrified! I’d read words like disability, disorder, life long and all of the hard that would come with Autism. 

The assessment itself was long, invasive, thorough and exhausting. I kept flipping between wanting her to have a good day and ace it and wanting the assessment to be accurate! Sage and I completed an independent parent component that was a 3 hour interview! 😩 

On this day, we were ready for the result but it still hit us like a Mach truck. The psychologist passed us the report and told us that Ziva had moderate to severe Autism or level 2/3 and we need to be prepared for all the things she may never do. Again, more fear, more doom, more negativity. 

What I want to know, is why, oh why, did that meeting not touch on the likely hood that she would develop unwavering honesty, hyper focus on her interests and all of the other benefits of having a brain that is wired in such a way that they see and experience the world uniquely!? 

I’m ashamed to say that my message to friends and family was that “we were shattered!” But how could we have been anything but shattered, when we kept being told how bad this would be! 

I dream of a world where finding out your child has Autism is like finding out your child has curly hair! You find out and then you’re taught how to care for that particular feature of your child and help to them to thrive with curly hair! 

ASPECT is doing just that. Teaching parents to care for their kiddos with a different but brilliant brain so that they thrive! If you can, please consider donating to my run for Autism as I run my tail off in honour of my amazing daughter and all kids like her!   

25 days of Autism - Day 1: post a photo of your child pre diagnosis.


A blissful day at the beach with friends. This day reminds me of the giddy happiness we felt watching our little treasure grow and develop! 

We had absolutely fallen in love with her bright and happy personality. Whilst parenting was as hard as many had said it would be, plus more, we really were loving every second. She hit all her milestones when she was supposed to and had developed some words. Mum, Dad, duck dog, hi etc.  Everything seemed “perfect.” 

We had no idea what was coming and we weren’t ready. When Ziva regressed, lost independent words and stopped engaging with us like she had been, we had never really given much thought to the word “Autism.”We had a very misguided and stereotypical understanding of what Autism was; which is why, when it became our reality, we very nearly fell apart! 

For a really long time, I found it hard to look at photos of this time. It’s crazy to me now, but I would always become incredibly sad and feel a very real sense of loss to be reminded of a time when things felt uncomplicated, easy and nearly worry free. (at least by comparison!) 

Now that we have a lived experience or more accurately liv-ING experience of Autism, our perspective has changed dramatically. I look back on these photos with love and appreciation for the little person in them, just the way she was/is. I know that while life is not perfect, I don’t think perfection truly exists and striving for perfection is an exhausting and costly endeavour! Our version of life IS messy, complicated, joyful and wonderful! Its full of celebration, love and happy memories and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ziva is still a bright and happy character and as she has grown, we have learnt that she is also intensely honest, creative, empathetic (more on this tomorrow), loving, hilarious, and hardworking and the world is far richer for having her in it! 

We would not have gone from terrified overwhelmed and sad; to happy, optimistic and knowledgeable without services such as those provided by Autism Spectrum Australia. (ASPECT) I’m putting my runners where my mouth is (😏🤨😝) and running 40km in 8 days, starting from 31st Oct. Please consider a donation to ASPECT to support families like ours! 💖💖💖💖

I'm running for.... my Ziva! 💖

I’m running for autism to help create a world where no-one on the autism spectrum is left behind. 

I've set my challenge and I'll be running from Sunday 31st October - 7th November while raising much needed funds to support people on the autism spectrum.

An estimated 1 in every 70 people is on the spectrum. Along with their family members, this means autism is a part of daily life for over a million Australians.

People on the spectrum see, hear, feel and experience the world differently. For many, simply coping with the everyday can lead to confusion, anxiety and isolation.

By coming together and taking action, we can help provide opportunities for people on the autism spectrum to participate, engage and thrive in the world around them.

Help make my run challenge count and show your support by donating today!

My Achievements

Laced up and ready to go

Uploaded a profile pic

Shared on socials

Made a self donation

Received my first donation

Raised $250

Smashed my fundraising goal

Logged my first run

Halfway to KM goal

Reached total KM goal

Thank you to my Sponsors


Glenn Brown

Can't fully explain how proud I am of my sister and my super niece Ziva! Go Dayna!


Myqm Pty Ltd

Run like the wind bullseye 🎯 So proud of you sis! Ziva is amazing in every way and so are you! Big love xx


Sara Fitzgerald

Go Dayna! Such an inspiration and an amazing advocate for your daughter and other families. Xo


Matthew Patafta

Thank you so much for spreading awareness and sharing your story. 🧡


Kym Hart

It’s been fascinating reading your incredible journey and insightful posts about your experience. It’s a world I knew nothing about. I wish you all the very best for the run - just another thing to add to your schedule!





John And Patrice Simmons

We're loving your heartfelt writing.


Brooke Gaukroger


Myconnection Pty Ltd

Ziva is an amazing girl and has grown so much with very supportive parents. All the best Dayna on your run for Ziva. Adrian, Isabelle, Jessica and Benjamin 🏃‍♀️


Rachel Shipp


Dani Champion

Thank you for raising awareness in such a beautiful way. Lots of love to you and the Brown family xx


Tegan Broen



Dayna - you are a beautiful mother and an inspiration to me. God knew you would be the perfect mother for Ziva! God bless.



I’m sure you’re a great runner but you are also an unbelievably talented writer. “Write for Autism!” Thank you for sharing your journey in such a powerful way! Keep fighting the good fight Super Mum!


Ingrid Hatfield




Kim Davey

Thank you for sharing Ziva's story


Kat Newman

💙 You are amazing! Loving reading your thoughts and insight.


Erica Newman

So proud of you Dayna, Ziva is one in a million and we are very lucky to know you both and watch Ziva grow into an amazing young person. Your hard work and dedication is reflected in Ziva. Well done xx


Sarah Toohey

Sharing Ziva and your family’s story is such a beautiful way to raise much needed awareness of Autism. Amazing work Dayna x


Tania Strutynski


Colin & Tina Maree Brown

Well done Dayna 👏🏻🙂


Hotchkis Family



Meryn Weenink


Lauren Lagana



Bec & Pj

For incredible kids like your Z and my T who encourage us to see the world through different eyes, who challenge us, stretch us, bless us ❤️



Dayna, You are an amazing, inspiring mum! XOXOXO!!!


Kristi Bartel

Amazing hun 💜 thank you for the awareness that you are raising


Kelsey Reist

Well done for being so brave in sharing your (ongoing) journey, you write so beautifully and authentically I hope it’s as healing to you as it is helpful for others! I know it’s already helping me support families I work with her in the earlier stage of diagnosis. Lots of love to you and your beautiful family!


Carole Kocmar


Jess Ruffy

Thanks for spreading awareness!! Go team Ziva!



Here with you every step of the way xx


Erin W

Ziva is the most amazing and awesome person; and a credit to such loving and courageous parents. You and Sage are raising such a beautiful girl, inside and out, she can achieve anything she puts her mind to. Can’t wait to see what else she achieves on her life journey xx


Matthew Power


Ange Clark

Go Dayna! Your an inspiration! We love reading your posts, thank you for raising awareness xx


John Ayton

Great work - thanks for raising awareness


Remy Lagana


Teresa Scott

So proud of what you and Sage have accomplished. Ziva has turned out so well thanks to you both.


The Ashton’s

Ziva is amazing, and Harvey and Tayla just adore her x


Jenny Mcquiggin

Thank you for your vulnerable and heartfelt sharing which raises awareness for us all. Much love to you and your beautiful family. ❤️


Rachel Norfor

(Finally got around to donating!) I think what you're doing is amazing. And thank you so much for sharing your journey - you're the absolute best mum for Ziva!


Katie And Evan Ekin-smyth


Rebecca And Steven Edwards


Carla Troxell


Kara Hilly



Lisa Robilliard



Danielle Ferguson

You go girl! You are doing an amazing thing, thank you so much 🥰🤗 x


Janelle Patten

Go you good thing. All the very best of luck and I am cheering you on. Ziva is an absolute treasure. Love your whole family. GOOD LUCK



I’ve absolutely loved reading about Ziva💗🥰


Jo D


Edwina Donlan

Amazing how you are speaking out, sharing your journey. Ziva is an awesome young lady continue to be proud of your beautiful girl.


Siobhan Glyde

I have truly loved reading your story. I would never have known your family’s journey had you not been willing to share. And I probably would never have known so much about what families go through when on this journey. More people should be willing to share their experiences with autism or otherwise. You absolutely go girl!



Good luck Dayna xx


Karen Lord

Go Dayna! You are amazing!


Dayna Brown



Dayna I am so proud of you and Sage. This journey you are on has helped make you the couple you are today. Congratulations you have a wonderful family.




Tanya Bridges

Inspirational Dayna.



You are amazing Dayna. I have learn a lot from all your stories.


Amy Stewart

Wish I could donate more. Thank you for sharing your story!




Deb Goggin

Great work Dayna! You are an amazing mum and I’m sure Ziva (and everyone) is so super proud of you ❤️


Jaimi Pigram

Thank you so sharing your story and experiences. What a great cause!


Patricia Brown

Wonderful Dayna, your stories are heart-warming.


Jess Hewen


Lisa Hill

You’re an amazing inspiring person and mother xoxo


Kelly Woods


Loren Love

Great work Dayna 🏃🏻‍♀️


Caitlin Strain


Aimee Lutze

Thank you for sharing your story! What an incredible girl Ziva is and what an insight I now have to the very innards of your family. What a journey, thank you for everything you taught me! Get it girl! :)


Katherine Power

You are a super star! Beautifully honest xxx


Annette Watson

I'm no runner but will be cheering you on Dayna. You are an incredible mother and an inspiration to all. Your little family are very lucky to have you as a mum.


Amy Victoria Westcott

Yours and Ziva's story is so inspirational. The world should hear it to build an understanding of the beauty of autism. I've been reading the posts each day and have learnt a lot, smiled and gotten a bit emosh. All my love to you and the fam x


Rhiannon Kocmar

This is for your beautiful little girl and her amazing mum



Dearest Dayn, you ROCK my friend!!! Thank you for doing this for all of those special kids out there, including ours….much love. Kyles xxx


Jazzy B

Good luck honey. No doubt you will smash it! X



I wish I could give more. With all my love Peta 💋



BIG LOVE from a fellow family on the journey xxx