Fear of the dark
JO Magill and Michelle Anthony yesterday spent Mother's Day like many other young mums on the Coffs Coast ? with their boys.
Jo has two sons, Ryan, 9, and Dane, 8, with Michelle also having two boys, Jesse, 8, and Nathan, 5.
Like any other mum on the Coffs Coast, Jo and Michelle have the same fears, hopes and joys that motherhood brings.
They have birthday parties, school fetes, Christmas and Easter festivities, tears and tantrums, hugs and kisses.
They also have the same hopes and dreams for their boys that any parent has ? that they will grow up into well-balanced young men, get a good job, meet a nice girl, live and work independently to enjoy a full life.
Yet, for Jo and Michelle there is one major difference. It is not so much a matter of 'when will' their boys get a job, meet a girl and live independently, but rather 'can' all this be possible.
For, you see, their two youngest sons, Dane and Nathan, are autistic.
When both women were informed that their youngest child had autism, the diagnosis was met with a mixture of shock and relief.
"We were stunned," Jo said.
"We knew there was something wrong with Dane from around 14 months, but we thought it might have been his hearing. It was only through a chance meeting with an Outreach worker at childcare who suggested that we take Dane to the Early Intervention Centre for assessment."
Michelle also knew from a young age that her second son was not progressing in the same manner as her eldest.
"We were upset, but at the same time glad that we finally knew what it was so that we could start addressing his needs.
"Being an early childhood teacher, I had an awareness of autism, but it was only basic knowledge. There are many challenges that you simply aren't aware of."
While an autistic child presents a number of challenges, perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome is other people's perceptions, reactions and lack of understanding.
"Because physically Nathan looks like any other normal child, people don't understand why he behaves the way he does. They don't understand the underlying problem, they just assume he is being naughty and needs disciplining."
This point is echoed by Jo, who says the reaction of other people can be very upsetting.
"There are certain behaviours that autistic children cannot control," Jo said.
"You don't go up to a child in a wheelchair and tell them they just need to walk, or tell a blind child they should just see, yet people feel they can tell an autistic child to improve their behaviour. Unfortunately, it's not that simple."
Despite the challenges, both mums are quick to point out the wonders and joys of having an autistic child.
"Nathan is a very happy, very loving little boy and his condition is not terminal. There are a lot of people out there who have far worse things wrong with them," Michelle said.