Matthew Jung is nine-years-old and he has autism.
“He has an abject fear of dogs, yellow school buses and lawnmowers,” explains Matthew’s dad, Stan Jung.
And like many kids with autism, Matthew struggles with social interaction and communication.
“I call him minimally verbal because his responses are one or two-word responses and from social interaction,” Stan says. “He’s a really shy kid.”
Raising a child on the autism spectrum can be an incredibly isolating experience.
“You’re just on your own,” says Stan. “A lot of families, they have support networks and their kids have play dates and things like that but that normally doesn’t happen with Matthew.”
And that’s where the Victoria Society for Children with Autism (VSCA) comes in — providing much-needed support.
“Everything from respite to basically a shoulder to cry on sometimes, and helping them to advocate,” says volunteer board member Michael Yarr of the Victoria Society for Children with Autism.
READ MORE: Victoria Society for Children with Autism supports families facing unique challenges
The parent-driven non-profit has now been helping local families for more than 50 years.
“When the diagnosis of autism comes, it is simply put, a gut punch,” Michael says, speaking from experience. “No one wants to hear it and so honestly, for the first little while, you just flounder and you don’t know what to do and who to turn to.”
For Mathew’s family, the moral and financial support from VSCA has been a game-changer.
“People in the autism community are looking for more than just awareness,” says Stan. “They’re looking for autistic kids and autistic people to be accepted in society.”
And that’s why April is now Autism Acceptance Month, instead of Autism Awareness Month.
“It’s an important step for society to understand some of the challenges, and the gifts, that children with autism bring,” says Michael.
Stan just hopes that sharing their story will help others, and encourage people to be more accepting.
“I think the more the word autism is out there, the more that people are accepted, I think the more that we can share and open up these types of connections,” he says.