I met my beautiful wife on a rundown bus on the outskirts of Cambodia in 2004. I’d recently graduated from business school in the USA and was ‘widening’ my horizons (aka backpacking) in the best sense of the word…before I caught the gaze of her twinkling blue eyes and was forever spellbound. Fast forward to 2009 and we were off to Australia for a fresh start. Little did we know, in a few years time our lives would look completely different to anything we could have ever imagined.
I knew nothing about autism prior and the diagnosis took longer than we’d expected. At the time, Beau was 2 years old and was attending daycare. My wife was the first to notice the signs. The first being when he started to miss certain milestones, particularly around his language development and social behaviour. He also began to display certain behavioural traits, which at best could be described as ‘challenging’ and was a prolific absconder. My wife as a ‘mum knows best’ kind of mum knew immediately something was amiss and these signs further validated her concerns.
This is when we knew we needed to seek specialist advice.
Despite her ‘mummy intuition’, our GP at the time gently rebuffed our request for a referral, so we sought a second opinion. The best part about finally getting that diagnosis was ‘getting busy’. We knew where we’d landed. My wife began researching the best evidence-based early intervention options and we relocated to Sydney. Rebecca hired a team of therapists who worked with Beau in a very play-based environment which really suited him. It finally felt like we had a plan of action moving forward. The hardest bit was the day to day worries, worrying about the future…his future, and his future independence.
As a dad, new to the world of autism, I initially just wanted something to be ‘fixed’. Before Beau was diagnosed I only knew about the autism stereotypes, which is sad. As a society, we’re still so behind in terms of having subconscious, preconceived ideas about what autism is. Being an autism dad has taught me patience and understanding, but I am far from there and still learning every day how to be a better person.
Investing in the future…
As an impact investor, I am always looking for new ways to create and build a more positive society. I’ve always felt an inherent need to help others…sometimes too much and it gets me in trouble. I love meeting people from all parts of the globe and finding out who they are. In the past, I spent two months in rural China (pre-smartphone days!), purely to experience how communities lived. I’ve been really fortunate to have been given a chance to pay it forward, which is what I have decided to do via impact investing. I’m involved with a consulting firm called Auticon which exclusively employs adults on the spectrum and a VC fund called Aera, which strives to ‘invest today for a better world tomorrow’. Most recently, I have founded my own startup, Rockmelon. Rockmelon not only addresses all the challenges parents, families and professionals face when a child is first diagnosed with a developmental delay and is going through early intervention but is also aiming to support individuals throughout adolescence and beyond as a ‘platform for life’. We’ve just launched our first product, the Parent Edition, which is designed especially for parents and carers to bring together everyone on their child’s ‘team’, streamline communications and provide evidence-based strategies and resources to help them help their child reach their fullest potential.
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, which doesn’t help me in my struggle to ‘get shit done’. I’m one of those people whose mind struggles to switch off – to the point where it can become crippling. At the same time, as a parent with a child on the spectrum, your mind is always on heavy rotation with all the challenges the future may hold for you and your family. Not only are you worried about your child, but the entire wellbeing of your family. Will he get through school ok? Will he be bullied? Will he have friends? Have a life partner? Career? Housing? Sometimes it can be exhausting, but it is just what us parents do. We seek the best for our children. We want to give them the best opportunities that will enable them to reach their best outcome.
My advice for parents…
Our lives turned out differently to what we had imagined, but I do believe it has made us better people. We are an outgoing and adventurous family of five. Beau is now aged 7, Leo is 9 and Andie is 5. We love travelling and exploring new places, with one of our favourite trips being to Mexico when Andie was only 2.5 months old…via a road trip to Las Vegas!
My advice for parents is to never second guess your own intuition. Trust your gut. Seek a second opinion. Follow the science and evidence based therapies, they work.
What I want for all of my children is fulfilment, happiness, independence and a place where they are empowered to make decisions and be supported.
“We need to teach our kids that autism is not a tragedy. Ignorance is the tragedy. Then hopefully these kids can focus more on making friends, getting the support they need and living a life where cruelty among bullies is a thing of the past”
Alexander André de la Porte
Autism Dad, Founder, Impact Investor
For more information about Alex and Rockmelon, check out the Rockmelon website here.