Autism ad­vo­cate and fed­eral MP to give se­niors talk

Myrtleford Times - - News -

MYRTLE­FORD’S im­pres­sive U3A pro­gram will again in­spire se­niors to con­tinue learn­ing and to think dif­fer­ently with two high pro­file guest speak­ers talk­ing at the Myrtle­ford RSL Hall next Fri­day.

Judy Brewer, who is the found­ing chair of the Co­op­er­a­tive Re­search Cen­tre for Liv­ing with Autism (Autism CRC) and Pro-chan­cel­lor of Charles Sturt Uni­ver­sity’s south­ern re­gion, will speak at the event along with her cousin, Cathy McGowan (MHR, Indi).

Ms Brewer, who re­sides in Mudge­gonga, will talk about the huge di­men­sion that was added to her life when her son Har­ri­son was di­ag­nosed with autism 20 years ago.

In her words, she took the un­usual path­way from farm­ing and “chas­ing cows” as the owner/man­ager of Grossotto Poll Here­fords to hav­ing an on-farm, off-farm ca­reer in ad­vo­cacy.

On top of be­ing the found­ing chair of Autism CRC, Ms Brewer is also the founder and in­au­gu­ral Con­venor of Autism Asperg­ers Ad­vo­cacy Aus­tralia, a di­rec­tor of the Autism Coun­cil of Aus­tralia, a mem­ber of the Autism Al­liance and an am­bas­sador to the Asia Pa­cific Autism Con­fer­ence.

She drew par­al­lels to the con­tin­u­ous learn­ing she has un­der­taken through autism re­search to that of the U3A pro­gram.

“When Har­ri­son was di­ag­nosed, we didn’t know any­thing about autism, it was hid­den in our com­mu­nity,” she said.

“The last 20 years I’ve re­ally learnt so much by be­ing en­gaged in the autis­tic com­mu­nity and work­ing with autis­tic adults.

“I am so grate­ful to have had that chance be­cause it has made my life so much richer in ev­ery way and that’s what I want to talk about (on Oc­to­ber 12).”

Ms Brewer said there was a lot of dis­cus­sion about dis­abil­ity, but that it was time to ex­plore the no­tion of dis­abil­ity, and whether it re­ally is dis­abling, or just dif­fer­ent, to the ‘nor­mal’ ma­jor­ity.

“There’s not re­ally right and wrong, there’s just dif­fer­ent ways to do things and that’s what makes life for autis­tic peo­ple so dif­fi­cult, the world is try­ing to shape every­one to be nor­mal,” she said.

“The topic of the talk is that nor­mal is sim­ply a set­ting on a wash­ing ma­chine and that it is ac­tu­ally a pretty mean­ing­less term.”

Ms Brewer said that so­ci­ety had now learnt that peo­ple who thought dif­fer­ently added huge value to the com­mu­nity, work place and to all de­ci­sion mak­ing.

“It is just crazy that autis­tic adults have the low­est level of em­ploy­ment of any dis­abil­ity group, in many ways they should be the eas­i­est peo­ple to hire,” she said.

“We have a long way to go and it starts very much around ed­u­ca­tion, it’s the com­mu­nity that can make the dif­fer­ence and the em­ploy­ers by putting their hand up to say they are in­ter­ested and that their work­place could be en­hanced by some­one who thinks dif­fer­ently.”

Next week’s talk will take place on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 12 at 2pm.

For more in­for­ma­tion on event or U3A, con­tact Jan Mock on 0401 064 030.

BY TATE SPI­TERI

GUEST SPEAKER: Judy Brewer, pic­tured at her Mudge­gonga home, will give a talk about her ex­pe­ri­ences and ad­vo­cacy in re­la­tion to autism dur­ing a Myrtle­ford U3A event next week.

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