Today, April 1, marks the start of international Autism Awareness Month which focuses on shedding light on the lives of those on the spectrum.
Caboolture-based boy Ethan Langridge-Wharton is the perfect example of hope this month, as he was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at the age of 4. Ethan’s condition means that he experiences the world in a totally unique manner, using his sense of touch to understand and absorb his surroundings. Ethan lives his day-to-day school and home life roaming through a stunningly colourful and light world.
Ethan’s mother, Joanna Wharton, has walked every step of this journey with her son and explains that the view from Ethan’s world is something similar to “living in a kaleidoscope, full of beautiful chaos”.
Rather than dwell on the challenging elements around Ethan’s situation, this mother and son duo decided to channel Ethan’s uniqueness and turn it into something expressive and inspirational – a circus stage production, in fact, called ‘Kaleidoscope’ that features at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts from April 6-9.
Joanna says she simply “documented quirky stories and inspiring insights hoping that one day, people could discover new understanding and vitality for themselves”. These little golden snippets into the life of a child growing up with Asperger’s aim to capture the fight for satisfaction and wholeness that individuals like Ethan often face. The stage production features Ethan himself as the lead performer. The production is presented through a physical and playful circus display, which just so happens to be Ethan’s favourite communicative outlet. Ethan has taken part in Flipside Circus classes for just over two years and now gets to bring his skills and abilities onto the big stage with some of his fellow circus-loving peers.
Ethan’s story of challenge, growth and hope proves that there is no one way to view the world and that autism is not something to be afraid of, but something to be understood and embraced. As Joanna explains, Ethan himself sets an amazing example for his younger brother, Oliver.
“Sometimes the heart breaks and cracks open because so much love is bursting through,” he says.
WHAT // Kaleidoscope (duration: 60 mins, no interval)
WHEN // From Wednesday April 6 to Saturday April 9
TIMES // Wed, Thu & Sat 2pm // Thu, Fri & Sat 7.30pm
WHERE // Performance Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. 420 Brunswick St (corner of Berwick St), Fortitude Valley
TICKETS // Full $29, Concession $23, Child (under 15) $18, Families (2 Adults/2 Children) $72, Groups (6+) $23 each.
BOOKINGS // www.judithwrightcentre.com or 07 3872 9000
Words // Laura Markwort