60 Minutes, reporter Liz Hayes shared the story of Liz and Sean Whelan, a hardworking Australian couple struggling to cope with their severely autistic, non-verbal son, Max. Since the interview aired the family have received some negative responses. They would now like to address those concerns.

In response to the overwhelming feedback to their story, Liz and Sean have issued the below statement.

People claimed that the 60 Minutes Australia segment was “undignified” and “demeaning” towards their 12-year-old son Max.

“We feel it is necessary to say a few words to help complete our story that aired on 60 Minutes last night.

Firstly, thank you all so much for ALL of the comments that have been made, we understand that everyone is primarily coming from a place of genuine concern for Max and our other children.

This story wasn’t an easy watch for everyone, including our family and we would like to reassure you that Max did not watch the program, nor was any money exchanged for it. We wouldn’t ever have agreed to sharing our story publicly if we thought for a moment that Max would be negatively impacted.

The fact remains however that this has been life for Max and for all of us now for many years. It has been a constant complicated, desperate learning journey that is still continuing today.

Striking a balance between Max’s needs and the needs of our other children has been impossible, it is extremely difficult to create a calm and low stimulatory environment that Max desperately needs, with 3 other children in the same space. That being said, we have done our best and we are so extremely proud of all our kids, they are all amazing.

Our dedication to Max began before he was even diagnosed, my wife and I knew early that Max was different. Liz has been the driving force and the rock of strength who has never given up on Max. She has heavily researched every treatment and therapy she has been able to find and set about implementing them, one by one, when he was just 20 months old.

The lack of trained specialists and dedicated programs for kids at the severe end of the spectrum in Australia is devastating.

We were given this opportunity to highlight this point and it has not been easy for any of us, we only hope that in doing so it will bring about the changes that are so desperately required while also raising awareness for our most vulnerable, for they do not have a voice…yet.”

Read their full statement HERE.

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  • I didn’t see this segment, I do know how hard it is living with an autistic child, especially the ones high up on the spectrum


  • In Australia there is very little support in respect to therapies to attempt to improve the lives of children with Autism in comparison to some countries such as USA. Children here are lucky to get one session a fortnight, In USA therapy is constant from the age of 2 y.o. I know of one such case.


  • Not many have experienced the daily turmoil they have to. I’d say they need help not criticism.


  • Unless you can walk a mile in their shoes, you have no right to criticize. These people are trying to do the best for all their children with very little help. By shining a light on their problems perhaps some good will come of it. Thank you for being so brave in showing what you cope with every day.


  • This is a family in need. They need support not criticism. How hard would it be for them.


  • Did not watch the story, however I am never surprised by negative reactions and responses to reports and stories.


  • I haven’t seen the story. I do know that unless you’re raising a special needs kid, you have absolutely no concept of how difficult it is. Even then, it’s hard to fully understand situations unlike your own.


  • Unless you are living the situation you cannot really know how hard it can be. This family, as do all families of kids with special needs whatever they are need support not criticism, especially from those of us who are on the outside looking in and have no real idea of how it is.


  • Personally I’d rather have shopping bags any day than stupid, annoying little toys like that.


  • It’s so sad when people are confronted with something outside of their norm they feel the right to comment. My husband works in disability care and whilst I tease him for getting to go bowling one shift a week I know it’s difficult caring for those with disabilities. This family is doing their best with the resources given to them.


  • I can’t believe that people have carried on about this. Some people may deem it as undignified BUT it is the reality for many Australians. Just because it’s not a nice reality doesn’t mean we shouldn’t air it. Hopefully this segment many bring about some awareness and bring about some change.


  • Such a hard thing for this family to be going through. The fact they have 3 other children means they have to make the tough decisions to make sure they are cared for and are safe as well as looking after Max


  • This family goes through enough on a daily basis without needing criticism from keyboard warriors! Support is what they need, not negativity!


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