Today I am so very grateful to my father-in-law, David, who has left today to walk the Kokoda Track to raise awareness and funds for autism. We were at Newcastle Airport this morning to see him off on his bold adventure and I also had one of my own…we’ll get to that later.

David is taking part in Step Up 4 Autism. He and 3 work colleagues are going to walk the treacherous Kokoda Track, starting at Ower’s Corner on Monday. It will take about 7 days to undertake the trek, one of the most demanding walks in the world.

You can read more about it here. You can also read the recent Newcastle Herald article on the challenge here.

David loves walking and hiking and has completed walks in Australia, New Zealand and Peru. But I think this one is his most personal challenge yet.

He is walking for his two grandsons who have autism. He is walking to raise awareness for Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT), an organisation that provides early intervention, support and schooling for children with an ASD. He is walking because he wants people to understand autism and how it affects families – parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins.

When we were at the airport today my son had a meltdown. I made the mistake (as always) of questioning his need for a particular food for morning tea. Wouldn’t he prefer a cookie instead of hot chips at 10.30am?

Well, he didn’t and he demonstrated his displeasure by screaming, running about, randomly lashing out and generally being loud and unhappy. My husband and I just take it in our stride these days – we don’t even usually notice the looks that come from others who don’t know his story, who tend to judge (understandably) from what they can see before them.

I noticed the looks today, because I was looking at it through my parents-in-laws’ eyes. They have seen his meltdowns before but seeing one still upsets them deeply.

We calmed him down, I procured the coveted hot chips and then he got upset over his own behaviour. He apologised over and over again for his outburst which completely undid me. He looked into my eyes (not something he usually does) and asked me whether I still loved him.

He is the most wonderful boy and I will always love him – which I did tell him. But my voice did break as I further promised to always help him, always advocate for him and always support him.

He and all others with autism, both young and old, need understanding, advocacy, love and support. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but in reality, faced with seemingly irrational and out of proportion behaviour, faced with social awkwardness, faced with inflexible logic, faced with obsessive interests and faced with the need for rigid routines, most people simply don’t understand.

That is why I am grateful for my father-in-law and his bid to raise awareness, funds, and, most of all, understanding of autism. Please visit Step Up 4 Autism, read the blog, track their journey (they begin the walk on Monday July 25) and spread the word.

Now, I mentioned I had an adventure of my own while at the airport, didn’t I? Well, thinking I was all cool and stuff I decided to update my facebook status on my iPad using the free wi-fi at the airport. We then packed ourselves up and departed for home…except I left my iPad behind.

Of course, I didn’t discover this until we had arrived back at home so I rang the airport to see whether an iPad had been handed in there. No, there hadn’t been one handed in and it would be best if I came back to re-trace my steps.

So off the airport I raced, thankfully with my mother-in-law in train to ensure I didn’t crash on the way. There, I met a lovely lady named Annette who works at the Transport Information desk. She takes the calls when you ring there in an utter panic because you were silly enough to have misplaced your personal stuff in a public place…

I introduced myself to her and, lo and behold, she bent down and grabbed my iPad from under her desk!

She had taken my earlier call and had searched the terminal for it, for me. Luckily, it was in a black case and had been left on a black chair that had remained (miraculously!) unoccupied since our departure. She was just worried that someone else would claim it as I had not even left my name or mobile number in my earlier panicked call.

So today, I am also grateful to the lovely Annette from the Newcastle Airport Transport Information desk, who took the time to help me out when she could have just left me wallowing in my own stupidity!