Learning Curves

Host: Yougawalla Pastoral Co.
Written by Yulia Meally – Cook/Caretaker, Yougawalla Pastoral Co.

5.1 bigger copyMeally family of Bulka Station – Yulia, Gary, and young Seamus.

Hi everyone, my name is Yulia, I have written a few years ago on Central Station about my transition from living in a huge city in Surabaya, Indonesia, to moving to the remote Kimberley WA. I am now a station cook and caretaker. My husband, Gary, is the Station Manager and we have lived at Bulka station since 2012. Bulka Station is one of the properties that make up part of Yougawalla Pastoral Company. We were at Yougawalla station for two to three years before we moved to Bulka Station. We moved into Bulka after we had our son, Seamus.

Bulka station is located about 170km from the nearest town, Fitzroy Crossing. We were a bit nervous at the beginning as new parents, moving into a new environment with new responsibilities, well who wouldn’t be? When we moved in, Seamus was only six weeks old and if he got sick or something happened, the nearest hospital is a two hour trip and the nearest neighbours are at Wangkatjungka community, which is 40km from where we are. So, being paranoid is just a part of being parents. A few months later we started to feel relaxed and calm.

5.2 replacementSeamus.

My husband, Gary, was the one who noticed that something wasn’t quite right with Seamus’s development. I have no nieces or nephews and wasn’t around little kids that much, so honestly, I wasn’t sure, as we all know that every child’s development is different. Seamus never asked for food, drink or toys, he didn’t play with toys, he didn’t cry when he accidentally banged his head or hurt himself, also his sleep patterns weren’t normal – he woke up in the middle of the night, crying and vomiting, and sometimes just woke up and refused to go back to sleep.

5.3 bigger copyHaving a play with Dad in the Christmas Creek.

When Seamus was 20 months old, he started to avoid eye contact, made no sounds or baby talk (babbling noises), he walked on his tippy toes a lot, and displayed hand flapping and other repetitive behaviour when he felt overwhelmed. Also, Seamus enjoyed being close to me and Gary but no actual interaction at all. As a parent, I thought that it was my fault, maybe I didn’t try hard enough, perhaps we should live in the city where we can see more kids in a playground. Gary and I tried everything, from reading books, singing, dancing, taking him outside, playing with him, talking to him at every opportunity, using food to get him to talk, browsing online information, taking him to pre-school at the community, until we decided to get him tested. Wangkatjungka community has a good clinic that runs under Fitzroy Crossing Hospital. We saw one of the child health nurses, who helped us to meet the specialist Doctor team for child development.

It was June 2015 when we met the team of doctors (paediatric, speech pathologist, neurologist) from PATCHES, who give services to Wangkatjungka school every couple of months. They did some tests on Seamus, checking all his behaviour, then a few days later they came back with the diagnosis as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders). So, that was the answer, not our fault a parents, not because we live in isolation, we just need to learn more about Seamus, understand him, try to enter his world, teach him in a way that is acceptable for him.

5.4 bigger copyPage Boy at my brother’s wedding back in Surabaya last December.

The PATCHES teams has helped us to access the Government funds for early intervention, so we can use it for Speech Therapy sessions, Occupational Therapy, or other resources that could help Seamus. Living in a remote area gives us a bit of challenge to access those services. We normally take Speech Therapy at Wangkatjungka community or at The Child Centre in Fitzroy Crossing. I went to Perth twice last year (August and December) with Seamus for block therapy, so he can get intense sessions. Then Seamus and I went to Perth again last March for more block therapy. When we are at home, we continue to keep up the therapy ourselves, always looking for little things that he enjoys and take it from there, watching him for the smallest sign of communication such little eye contact, gestures, etc.

It is very overwhelming for family with an autistic child, but once we were ready to open our minds and get all the support that we need, life is getting a lot easier. We are very lucky with all the support that we have received, especially support from people who live surrounding us. Haydn and Jane, managers of Yougawalla Pastoral Company, have been very good to us, not only for understanding Seamus situation and what he needs, but also they are being very resourceful for any information that may be helpful for Seamus’ progress.

5.5 Bigger copySeamus giving his Mummy some kisses.

Seamus now is three and a half years old, still non verbal, but his progress in the last 12 months has been huge. He started to say dada or daddy, he is starting to communicate with us when he needs something. When he needs to go to the toilet, he will pull my hand and lead me towards toilet, he is using lots of gestures, pulling hands and making sounds when asking for food or drink, he makes more eye contact to us, he shows emotion, gives me cuddles and kisses (not only if I asked him to). These little things give us hope, and we believe that Seamus will be fine. The most important lesson that we need to teach Seamus is love. It is important that Seamus feels comfortable, and supported by his family. I am not worried about his education, I will not push him to do something that he isn’t ready to do. It will take time, but I am sure he will catch up, he will learn in his own pace. Albert Einstein said “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”, so for me, life is a continued learning process, just like you and me, learning new things everyday, for the rest of our life.

5.6 Bigger copySeamus playing outside at the Bulka Homestead.