“There’s a fun way to do everything in life”
Amelia Sutton Foxton is the proud mother of three beautiful children; Bernard, Josie and Eddie. Bernard is a charming, kind boy with an extraordinary mind. Character drawings are his new passion and he is exceptional at it. He is, in fact, exceptional at everything he loves; passion is in his veins. Josie is only five but already enchanting. Life is a discovery. She is fascinated by the world and everything in it. Clouds, birds and trees are all open books; she must know how things grow and where they come from. Eddie is two and a natural born scientist. He is particularly fascinated in insects and lizards. Also an avid Star Wars fan, Eddie can list the major and minor characters of the Star Wars universe. Along with Dad, David, they are a happy bunch, known best for their shared love of fun, humour and tomfoolery.
Amelia didn’t know much about Autism before she had children. Every mother hopes their child will grow typically, each milestone on time and in order. Bernard was no exception until twelve months of age, when the beautiful and freely given smile he was known for started to fade. Not long after, he lost his speech and fought to make eye contact. By eighteen months, he suffered greatly each and every day. He was trapped in his own mind and unable to communicate. The chaos in his mind and now erratic body caused him to lash out at the world. And at himself. After countless medical appointments, therapy sessions and sleepless nights, Bernard was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Only two years passed before Josie, Amelia’s second born, was also given this diagnosis. Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD is a complex condition that is unique to each person. A brain with Autism functions very differently to others. The mind, the body and the senses can behave in ways that are anything from unusual to chaotic and sometimes utterly debilitating.
For Amelia, the future of raising an Autistic family was daunting. She dealt with this new responsibility the only way she knew how: research. Amelia read books, journals, studies, articles and everything she could find. When she was not reading, she was speaking to therapists, clinicians and all kinds of medical specialists. When she wasn’t doing that she was in training; learning the ins and outs of every therapeutic treatment from behavioural to occupational, speech and even biomedical. Amelia was on the cutting edge of science and innovation. Always for her children, but in time the knowledge became too big to keep. So she decided to share. Amelia became an advocate for children with Autism. She campaigned to help children, and their carers all over Australia. One of her most fulfilling roles was board member for a parenting-support business where she represented the parents. A challenge she knew very well. Amelia was also appointed subject matter expert on a team of consultants. The nationally recognised group travelled all over the country to work with Autism-specific schools.
In general, Central Coast locals have been kind to Amelia’s family. There are, however, some moments that can test her resilience. Disabled car spaces are designed to help people in difficulty. This typically goes without saying. But for some, the concept of a disability is confined to something you can see, such as a wheel chair or a person with a guide dog. Amelia refers to the idea of ‘invisible disabilities’ when explaining a more pervasive kind of discrimination. It happens at the local store, the beach and soccer field when what appears to be a perfectly healthy family take up a special parking space. These bystanders do not know that children with Autism are five times more likely to walk or run in front of a moving car. They can lose focus and become unaware of the dangers right next to them. Sounds, smells and sights can cause panic, and sometimes this happens in the middle of a road. Being closer to the entrance is the best way to keep them safe. We can help by talking about it; awareness is the greatest form of prevention.
Amelia’s recent work has been a real blessing for our community. She is one of the forces behind the Central Coast Disability Inclusion Action Plan. Her
ideas shine as much as her charm – which has incidentally made her the face of the campaign. If we can improve accessibility we can maximise inclusion.
Amelia’s primary focus here is pathways through our neighbourhoods. Believe it or not, something as simple as path can change and even save a life.
Children with Autism live in what could be called chaos. Pathways can help make being out and about simpler, providing clarity, comfort and order in
an otherwise chaotic world. Paths can act as yellow brick roads, guiding little feet out into the world – and away from oncoming traffic. If the local
pathway was complete, Amelia’s children could walk to school, to the park and back home again. If every pathway was complete, they could access every
beauty the Central Coast has to offer.
Her ultimate hope is for a future where everyone is valued and where differences are celebrated. Not just accepted. Amelia cherishes diversity of all kinds and hopes that we all can follow. Here, her children’s future is one where their minds are as wonderfully intricate as they are profoundly unique. And something to be cherished. Amelia and her family love the Central Coast and plan to stay here for a very long time. She is a mother on a mission and we are lucky to have her. To her nearest and dearest however, she is known best as Mum; the story teller, bear hugger, dinner maker, bug catcher, game player and the one who lets them jump all over the bed.
Read what locals have to say about the Central Coast.