Family fights to help son with challenges

JENSEN is the most loving and beautiful boy. The words of Liz Cronk reveal the love of a mother for her son and hint at her commitment to help him to live the very best life.

Jensen is just six-years-old but daily wages a war with himself that everyone in his family must fight to try to help him.

Jensen has Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder and a sensory processing disorder which put simply, means he has significant behavioural and emotional problems that can often wreak havoc in the world that he shares with Liz, his dad, Andrew and sister, Charlotte.

The first hint that something was just not right with Jensen came when he was 18 months old, according to Liz.

"I noticed him rejecting me for other people and then when we would separate from the person his was fixated on, he would just scream. He screamed from Harrington to Old Bar and it just evolved from there," she explained.

"Our family didn't manage it, we didn't know what to do, and today sometimes we still don't know what to do, but we do our best.

"It can be very hard, very stressful, depending on the day, situation and time.

"He is the most loving beautiful boy, but if he is trying to deal with a sensory issue and can't express it, then he's aggressive, not violent, but acts out in aggressive ways that can be screaming, hitting or just smashing stuff. It can go on for 45 minutes or a few hours.

"He might be feeling very overwhelmed and out of control and unable to work out how he is feeling about something. So to cope he might go and sit on a chair and just spin, or watch TV upside down. He does little things that are quirky to try to make himself feel better."

The experience of parenting Jensen and being a sibling to Jensen is challenging and Liz says she "tries to be one-step ahead of him" to limit triggers and management of sensory inputs.

She says she is constantly looking for ways to better support Jensen and her family and that is why she is welcoming and promoting a new NSW program called, 'Stepping Stones: Triple P Project'. She is hopeful the project will help Jensen and her family and is "looking for a bit more serenity."

The project offers free parenting sessions through Stepping Stones, which is a Triple P Positive Parenting Program for parents of children with a disability.

The program is new and offers two years of free parenting support to parents of children with a disability in NSW.

It addresses the needs of parents and carers through a survey called, My Say, that looks at the emotional, behavioural and social difficulties of children with disabilities. It also gauges the level of awareness among parents about services that are currently available.

The University of Sydney's Chair of Mental Health Professor Stewart Einfeld from the Faculty of Health Sciences recently launched the project at the Helping Families Change Conference in Sydney.

Professor Einfeld says the project aims to reduce high levels of emotional and behavioural problems in children with a disability by providing parents with more support.

"Children with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders, Fragile X and Down Syndrome experience three to four times the emotional and behavioural problems of typically developing children," Professor Einfeld said.

"This has an enormous impact on parents, and understandably many struggle to cope with the daily demands of raising their child and the extra challenges it involves."

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