Tasmanian Government Honours Deloraine Wife and Mother for Service to Autistic Children
 

Tasmanian Government Honours Deloraine Wife and Mother for Service to Autistic Children
 

News Release
 

Recently included on the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women for her tireless work establishing the Giant Steps range of services for children on the Autism Spectrum, Deidre Triffitt was quick to share the honour.

“Whilst I was the one recognised with this award, it was a family affair,” she said.  

In her invitation letter, Tasmanian Minister for Women, the Hon. Jacquie Petrusma MP stated that the Honour Roll was established to recognise the outstanding contributions made by Tasmanian women from all walks of life. The award caps decades of Triffitt family sacrifice that has benefited many families in the wider community.  

In 1987 Deidre was a hard-working dairy farmer's wife, and mother of three boys (a daughter would soon arrive), when her youngest son, 14 month old Corom, started experiencing epileptic seizures up to 15 times a day, eventually developing self-harming, destructive behaviour. A Sydney specialist diagnosed Corom with autism, and told the devastated parents, “Don't waste your time. He'll get physically and mentally worse; he'll be a 'vegetable' and should be institutionalised”.

“Not on my watch”, was Deidre's unspoken response. However there was little financial support and no specific services for autistic children in Tasmania.

Deidre and her husband Kim commenced a world wide search to find help for their son. Over the next four years they spent $300,000 of their own funds, made many trips to the USA and Canada – at times with Kim at home alone in Tasmania working the farm - and investigated several successful but prohibitively expensive programmes, before their persistence eventually paid off.

Darlene Berringer, the founder of the Canadian Institute of Neuro-Integrative Development's Giant Steps programme, was so impressed with the parents dedication to help their son, she offered one of the limited, highly sought-after places at the institute's satellite school in Kamloops, British Columbia. For a year the entire family relocated to Canada while Corom attended the school where he thrived in the intense, holistic, multi-disciplinary environment. Deidre and Kim worked as the school's janitors to help pay for Corom's tuition.

It soon became apparent that with limited financial resources to remain in Canada, such a school was needed back home in Tasmania. Having found the answer, another battle began – to set up Giant Steps in Deloraine, Tasmania.

Although there were many demands for a Giant Steps satellite school in the USA and other Canadian provinces, Darlene Berringer maintained her passionate support, making several trips to Tasmania while Deidre lobbied for assistance, founding the Giant Steps Steering Committee.

With a $225,000 commitment from the Tasmanian State Government, and extensive community involvement, Giant Steps Tasmania opened in July 1995 as the first satellite Giant Steps school outside Canada.

What started with a mother's love, a family's sacrifice, and friends' and community support, now blesses the lives of people in Tasmania and abroad.  Today Giant Steps is a non-profit, independent registered school and therapeutic centre serving 42 students.

Corom Triffitt is a happy young man who resides in his own independent unit on the farm, supported by carers and family, a far cry from the institutionalised future once predicted.

The Triffitts are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Kim Triffitt serves as the Bishop of Deloraine Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Deidre Triffitt serves as Faith in God Activity Day Leader for Primary children 8-12 and Ward Music Chairman.

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