Many people in community dislike the use of labels, such as the names that doctors and specialists give to different kinds of special needs.
Part of the mob
“Diagnosis” is when a name or a label is given to your child’s disability or special needs, maybe after seeing a doctor or a specialist, like a speech therapist, psychologist or another type of therapist.
But many Aboriginal communities dislike the use of labels. Community accepts children and adults with disabilities as a part of the mob. This is true from cradle to grave – children who need supports from birth can get that approach of community shared care from within family and kinship groups.
“He right Aunty!”
Rodney and Suzanna explain how when they’re back on Country, it’s as if their son’s autism “disappears”.
“Not that he doesn’t have the same needs, but the community takes care of that. The mother doesn’t have to feel like she’s the only one who’s doing it.” – Suzanna
“The kids with disabilities, you don’t even see them. They just blend in with the other kids so good. It’s the acceptance … And the kids look after each other so well. If you let the kids know the boy’s got a disability and you gotta look after ‘im, as long as they got that awareness, then everything is still the same.” – Rodney
“It’s like, ‘He right Aunty! He right!’ And off they went … [And] he was right. He was fine. He wasn’t hitting or biting himself, because he could sense that he was accepted, and they didn’t care what he did.” – Suzanna
Rodney and Suzanna realised that their boy was probably autistic at age two. Rodney felt cautious about the idea of a diagnosis.
“I don’t like the white system. I don’t know. It like label. Where our culture thing, our community is like – everyone is the same. They are treated the same.” – Rodney
But he agreed to move the family off Country to the city, so they could find more information and help for their son and family. When they go back to Country, they share that knowledge to benefit others.
Bringing it all together
Like many of the families in this resource, Rodney and Suzanna have used the information they got from their son’s diagnosis to help him on his journey. They bring together mainstream and cultural understandings of what their son needs, to find the right path for him. And to help him find his own path, as he gets older.
For example, Rodney and Suzanna have always worked hard to support their son’s cultural identity, both as Ngungu, and as Italian on their mother’s side. They have chosen schools with a strong Aboriginal community, and have always been very involved at school, sharing their knowledge of their son’s special needs and his cultural ways with school staff.
- On the next page, families talk about ways they have used information from their child’s diagnosis to help their child, their family, and their community.