Despina Havelas, a disability services advocate in Brimbank for years, has special regard for the month of April.

This is Autism Awareness Month – and autism has been a big part of her life since discovering her son, Kon, now 16, had autism.

“He was about 18 months old when we found out,” Ms Havelas said. “Things like no eye contact, he wasn’t paying attention, and non-verbal. He was pretty much non-verbal until he was nearly four.”

Ms Havelas said it was important for families with autistic children to know there is help out there.

“It can be a frustrating thing for the child and the parents at times, when communication is difficult,” she said. “It does put pressure on the whole household.

“I always explain to families that they are not alone and the carers out there are fantastic people. There is hope and improvement does come so it’s important not to lose contact with your community.”

Her own experience dealing with autism led her to starting charity group Autism Angels, to support families and advocate for better services in Brimbank.

“Autism Angels really wants Brimbank council to provide a disability hub, because the community really does need it,” she said.

“There needs to be community support because there’s a lot of psychological impacts on the family to do with stress. It’s 24 hours a day so it’s very challenging.”