“I have dedicated my life to raising my two sons with autism and if I had to relive the past 30 years, despite the hardships, I would, as my children are my biggest blessing”, said Antoinette Taylor, a mother of three children, two of whom are diagnosed with non-verbal autism.
Antoinette explains the many challenges she faced throughout the years in raising Keith, 31, and Mark, 26, who currently make use of the services offered at Casa Apap Bologna, in Mosta. Taylor said that it was life-changing for her when her sons started attending Casa Apap Bologna as the services are person-centred.
For the past 15 years, Antoinette Taylor was raising Keith and Mark on her own with the help of her eldest daughter and her family.
“Raising them was far from easy. There were times I felt lonely and helpless but through various training and courses I managed to understand better the autism spectrum and to better my ways of raising my sons.” Antoinette Taylor remembers how she had enrolled in an early birth programme that was offered by the then Eden Foundation, back in the 1990s. She says that was her stepping stone.
Keith was diagnosed with autism at a very young age. He had started to attend school in a regular manner however, with time it started to get impossible for him to cope despite the support he received from a Learning Support Assistant. As a result, Antoinette had to pull him out of mainstream education. He later started to attend lessons at the Maria Regina College Young Adults Education Resource Centre, in Wardija, where he could receive an education tailored to his needs.
“When I found out that I was pregnant with my third child, Mark, I was terrified that he would be diagnosed with autism as well. For the first year and a half, he showed no signs of autism. I remember him riding his bike like any other kid, nothing prompted me to have him screened there were no warning signs but then he changed overnight.”
Antoinette recalls how the family situation was hard on her eldest daughter but she found great courage and support in her and as her daughter grew older she even took care of her two brothers.
Mark eventually had also started to attend the Resource Centre in Wardija.
The biggest challenges for Antoinette in raising Keith and Mark were the continuous education and showing them love and care.
“As hard as it may seem to deal with an autistic child, if you show them how much you care for them they will instantaneously show you their appreciation and will do anything to not hurt your feelings, however hard that might be for them”.
Throughout all these years Antoinette has invested all her energy in educating her children. She believes that for them to understand better the environment we live in they need to explore it. “That is why I take them everywhere I go. During the past five years, I have also taken them on two cruise holidays and seeing them enjoying themselves was ultimate satisfaction for me as I could see my sons interacting and socialising. That could only be achieved through continuous learning”.
Antoinette Taylor explains how over the years she has seen people’s mentality and society’s perceptions change towards people with autism. “I believe that nowadays society is more open to inclusion and it is more inclined to the acceptance of people with different abilities”.
She also recognizes how entities such as HILA were vital for her sons’ life-long education and socialising. “They always look forward to going to Casa Apap Bologna and at the same time, it gives me time to recharge. There they are allowed to grow further, enhance their different abilities and experience care and love from others”.
Casa Apap Bologna, run by HILA, offers a range of services to persons with disability, including residential, respite, learning and development and day services. HILA is CareMalta Group’s expert in specialised care.
For further information visit www.hila.com.mt or call on 23 39 30 00