When Kylie O’Neill’s four-year-old daughter Grace was diagnosed with autism 18 months ago, she felt incredibly isolated.
But on Monday night the Wollongong mum couldn’t have felt more connected to her community as she joined hundreds of families at Flagstaff Hill to celebrate the 11th annual World Autism Awareness Day.
Wollongong lighthouse was among thousands of landmarks across the globe to turn light blue at dusk in recognition of people living with autism.
As a committee member for Care & Share Autism, Ms O’Neill has organised the Wollongong event for the second year running.
“Grace was diagnosed in September 2016, so I organised the 2017 event to help me with acceptance of her diagnosis – and to help other parents who knew what it was like to get that diagnosis, who knew how isolating it could be,” she said.
“I was amazed by how many people turned up, and this year it’s grown even bigger and better. The aim is simply to create greater awareness and acceptance of people with autism, and let their families know they don’t have to go through that journey alone.”
Ms O’Neill said she and partner Richie Fongaro were blessed with Grace, who while non-verbal and with Sensory Processing Disorder and developmental delays, always managed to get her message across.
“Grace has got the bubbliest personality, she lights up the room, her laugh is infectious,” Ms O’Neill said.
“We wouldn’t change Grace for the world, but we want to change the world for Grace. Which is why we do our bit to help raise awareness and to educate others about those living on the autism spectrum.”