Parents in Tasmania's disadvantaged areas struggle to access appropriate care for children with auti
Amy Lees' 10-year-old daughter lives with autism, ADHD, anxiety and sensory issues.
After the battle of getting a diagnosis, finding help near their family home in the outer Hobart suburb of Bridgewater was difficult.
"I find that there's quite a lot of stigma around being a parent from this area," Ms Lees said.
Bridgewater sits in the Brighton municipality, which the 2011 Australian Census found was Tasmania's most disadvantaged local government area.
"You often get told, 'there's nothing wrong, you just need to parent better' or 'have you tried discipline' or 'have you tried this', and it's not OK," she said.
"It's a really difficult thing to be a parent of a child with a disability and you are constantly questioning yourself anyway, but then to also have that added stigma is such a burden on the parent."
The family found the financial strain of accessing private services easier than going through the public system.
Ms Lees said her daughter attends a psychologist, a paediatrician, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist.
"That requires us to go from where we live in Bridgewater to places like Lindisfarne or New Town or Lenah Valley just for different appointments," she said.
"I've had to take time off work or quit a job completely to make sure I'm there to support her."
Bridgewater mother Amy Lees says finding help close to home for her 10-year-old daughter who lives with autism, ADHD, anxiety and sensory issues has been difficult.(ABC News: Selina Ross)
With two younger children to care for too, respite was important for the family.
"Our younger child gets her influence from the older sibling, she doesn't understand why my eldest will get away with things that she won't," Ms Lees said.
She said that prior to coronavirus, the family travelled to Moonah for respite care.
"We're quite lucky that we have our own transport, I just can't imagine how difficult it would be for a family living out here, having to rely on public transport and having to get all the way out to Moonah just to have someone care for their child for a few hours, it's very, very difficult.
"I'd love to see something that's more accessible in this area that acknowledges the struggles of parents of children with disabilities."
Campaign for local services
Angela Wilton knows those struggles all too well.
Her son Michael was diagnosed with autism after his speech stopped developing, when he was four years old and he was not holding eye contact.
Daily tasks like going to the supermarket were often a challenge as Michael struggled with the sensory overload.
"The amount of times that I just felt 'this big' out in public when things go wrong and you can't even breathe," she said.
Angela Wilton with her son Michael, who lives with autism.(ABC News: Selina Ross)
As a single parent during Michael's teenage years, respite was crucial but hard to find.
"You do get so rundown physically, mentally, emotionally, you're fully drained," Ms Wilton said.
"To then find that there's no respite for your child, when you're really desperately at your wits' end and need that break was really hard to deal with."
Michael is now 21 and living in supported accommodation.
Ms Wilton's struggle to find help close to home has led her to campaign for more services and respite support in the Brighton area.
She has organised an event called Disabilities Day Out, which is being held in October.
"Trying to gauge how many are wanting [help] — it is a big step forward towards that goal of getting a respite centre built," she said.
Small population a 'challenge'
Drew Beswick is the chief executive of Possability — a disability service provider that offers overnight respite for children and adults at Seven Mile Beach.
The Seven Mile Beach Retreat is 30 kilometres south-east of Brighton with poor public transport links.
"Tasmania is challenged by the density of the population in some areas and particularly around access to allied health and some of those other services," Mr Beswick said.
"So it's about trying to connect with the community and understand what they need and where they need it and where transport might be an issue or there are other barriers to access."
Mr Beswick said that while the retreat was generally run at full capacity, it was always worth asking if a spot was available.
"We'll do our best to fit people in and if we can't then we'll work with them to