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Dr Best encouraged his son push himself, taking him on an unpredictable trip through Africa. Image: ABC
A SYDNEY dad has gone above and beyond to help his teenage son who has autism to get the most out of life, taking him on a trip that some would think impossible.
Dr James Best took his 14-tear-old son Sam on a six-month backpacking trip across Africa, as an unconventional strategy to help improve his son’s social development and ability to deal with unpredictable situations.
Dr Best and his son Sam went on a six-month “life changing” journey around Africa together. Image: ABCSource:Supplied
Dr Best has pushed the boundaries with his fresh approach to autism therapy, telling the ABC that the “conventional” method wasn’t going to achieve the results he knew they could.
“Sam could play the piano and he could reprogram computers and pick up maths really quickly but he couldn’t go to the shop by himself or have a normal long conversation with a friend,” Dr Best said.
Dr Best and his wife Benison O’Reilly packed up and sold the family home to fund the experimental journey around Africa, with Dr Best documenting the trip through blog posts.
Sam was tasked with different challenges each day to push him out of him comfort zone such as hopping on and off public transport, doing the talking when they ordered food or checked into a hotel and visiting schools and churches.
Sam was encouraged to interact with people each day, visiting different schools and churches throughout the trip. Image: ABCSource:Supplied
According to Dr Best there was a distinct improvement in Sam’s social abilities and even his capacity to complete everyday tasks.
“He ties his shoelaces, he brushes his teeth by himself, he plans and he gets out of the room by himself. There is no way in the world I could have done all of these things with him if I’d have stayed at home,” he told the ABC.
Dr Best specialises in autism and parenting issues at his practice. Image: ABCSource:Supplied
Autism researcher Dr David Trembath studied regular video updates of the trip, noting there was a substantial change in Sam’s demeanour and how he interacted with others.
“The data shows a 78 per cent increase in eye contact and a 75 per cent reduction in abrupt topic changes when talking with strangers,” said Dr Trembath.
Dr Best said the experience has been “life changing” for both him and Sam.
Sam, who is now 16, told the ABC that he is thankful to his dad for taking him on the trip and the new skills that he learnt during it.
“I’m more grown up after this. I’ve been learning to talk to people more often. And thanks to Dad for making me more mature,” he said.
Dr Best and Sam’s journey will be aired tonight on Australian Story’s ‘My Son Sam’ on ABCTV and ABCiview at 8pm.
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