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Page last updated 06/11/04 01:32:48
After reading about our son, visit his web page, this is all his own work, Lee's piece of the web , or read about his school, Wargrave House School or visit an AS and Autism Webring. Click here for AS and Autism links.
Read about Callum, at the time of writing Callum was nearly 3 years old, in Playgroup Day, with Callum.
Our son, Lee.......
Our son is 18 years old and has Asperger's Syndrome. This is his story from birth to the present day, and just to show how he has progressed, Lee has just started a part-time weekend job with ASDA (Wal-Mart). He needed a little help with the application form, but attended their Group Selection Process, and one to one interview on his own and got the job, you cannot believe how proud we are of him. Anyway, please read on, this is the story of a wonderful young man.
He was born in a local hospital, his birth was difficult, my wife was in labour for 12 hours, during which time the medical staff tried to precipitate his birth in a number of ways, initially by an episiotomy, and the use of forceps which only succeeded in distressing him and my wife further. His heartbeat began to slow during labour, and at one stage no heartbeat was detectable, but the medical staff said that the monitor attached to his head had become dislodged, to placate both my wife and I, the staff used an external monitor to listen to his heartbeat. He was finally born by emergency c-section weighing in at 9lbs 9ozs, a big strapping baby boy.
In the first couple years of his life nothing abnormal was suspected, he walked at around 12 months, and he began to talk, albeit slowly. We suspected that all was not well when he was around 3 years old, he did not seem to be developing speech as well as he might, and he seemed rather more clumsy that we expected. During a routine visit by a health visitor, we voiced our fears. The local authority dealt with us in an excellent manner. He was placed with a nursery for special needs children, and was evaluated during this period by a child psychologist Dave Philpott, nothing at all like the stereotypical "not too sure, can't make my mind up professional" that I have heard many parents have sometimes dealt with. Mr. Philpott was forthright and to the point, something we appreciated, and were grateful for. At the end of the evaluation, Mr. Philpott told us that his diagnosis was that Lee had autistic tendencies, and that he would recommend to the LEA (local education authority), that Lee be given a Statement of Special Needs to enable him to be placed in a appropriate school. We viewed two schools that served our catchment area, Peter House in Southport, and Wargrave House in Newton-le-Willows. At the time, purely on geography we chose Wargrave House, as it turns out we chose well, Wargrave is an excellent school, since his time there he has "come on" leaps and bounds.
As a baby he laughed and cried as a normal baby would, he ate well, he slept well, he played well. This development seemed to slow around 2 to 3 years old. We noticed that his speech was a little lacking, he tended to use single words and had difficulty forming sentences and phrases. Certain things frightened him, in particular closed places such as driving under an arch of trees, he would be in his baby seat waving and saying, "bye bye, bye bye". At the time we thought this was comical, and not a sign of a problem. He had extreme difficulty with some words, one that springs to mind was helicopter, he would pronounce it "helicolopoter". He would watch TV, certain things would frighten him considerably, at the time an advert was showing for a well known pain-killer, he would flee terrified from the TV to be with my wife or I. We also noticed that he sometimes walked on his toes, and had great difficulty in establishing and maintaining eye contact, but he never showed signs of hand flapping. Although he had the problem of stilted speech, he learnt to read rapidly, he seemed to grasp phonetics easily, even though he struggled with normal speech. At the age of 4 to 5 years old, he could be given the most complex things to read, and although he stumbled over some words, made a excellent job of it, but his comprehension of that which he had just read was non-existent. One gift that he has been granted is a phenomenal memory, he can read statistics and facts, and recall them at will.
When he started at Wargrave House he was placed in class one with 5 or 6 children of a similar age, he has now moved up to Lakeside House the further education unit. His peers are aged between 16 and 19, he interacts well and is making excellent progress. He no longer toe-walks, but does on occasion, have problems with his co-ordination, his ability to maintain eye contact is much improved. When he speaks, he is able to construct sensible and appropriate sentences, and his comprehension of the written word is more than adequate. It is during his time at Wargrave House, that it was felt that perhaps his initial diagnosis of autistic tendencies should be modified because his symptoms were not those of a classically autistic child; he even underwent evaluation for ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), this was unfounded, he has since been re-evaluated as having Asperger's Syndrome.
Unusually for a child with AS, he has great empathy with his peers, on occasion this used to be over the top, in that if another child fell and hurt themselves, he would want to hold them in order to comfort them. He now understands that this type of action is not appropriate, and would now use verbal, rather than physical contact. He is very pleasant, and has a cheeky sense of humour. It is rare for him to suffer tantrums, he does not get frustrated by his occasional inability to express himself clearly.
In many cases of autism, it is common for children to become obsessive and compulsive. Fortunately, he has never suffered from compulsive behaviour, although when he was younger, he did become fixated with certain things. In the days of the Transformers cartoons, he would talk about nothing else, dinosaurs was another favourite. Nowadays, he manages to control this compulsive behaviour to a great degree, he enjoys soccer, TV wrestling, and pop music, occasionally talking about his interests at inappropriate times.
At home, he is a good child, he keeps his room tidy, he will help his mother in the kitchen, he enjoys playing computer games. His fears of his younger days, such as the tree arches, and the pain-killer advert are a thing of the past, in fact he thinks it is hilarious when we talk about it. He understands the difference between right and wrong, but as he enters puberty, he is developing some typical teenage traits, answering back and the like, I must say I do not find this a problem, it shows "normality" in his development. He has many friends, he attends a monthly disco run by MIND, he has also joined a group for young people aged 14 to 25 with Asperger's or high functioning autism, and is enjoying life to the full.
Perhaps my wife and I have been fortunate, the authorities were quick to help us as his problems became apparent, I think we have Dave Philpott to thank for that. We also appreciate that the costs of his specialist education are enormously expensive to the local education department. In an age of constraint by both local and national government it is all too easy for a misdiagnosis to be made and accepted by the parents, leading to irreparable damage to the child. Perhaps Lee's problems were caused by the trauma of his birth, who knows, it is too late now to go back and apportion blame, we have to accept the way he is. He is a fine boy, he gives us great pleasure, he is kind, loving, and I am sure gives us much less problems than some "normal" children give their parents.
How does his disability affect us as parents? Do we feel guilt, anger, frustration with his condition? No, to feel these emotions would not be constructive, and would be of no help to our son.
Would we change him? No, not for the world, he is compassionate, and has an affinity with news and events around him, and around the world that surprises me in one so young; my wife and I love him dearly, and he reciprocates that love to us, all that concerns us is that he grows as a person, and goes on to live a happy and full life. Finally we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Wargrave House, thank you to Pam Maddock, Graham Birtwell, who sadly has moved on to a well deserved promotion at another school, and all the staff, you have done a fantastic job with our boy.
Steve & Mo Nichol.
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AS and Autism links
Aspirations is a project for young people aged 16yrs-25yrs
who have Asperger's Syndrome or high functioning
autism in the Greater Manchester area
Tim Nickson Site
A personal slant on Autism, excellent reading.
ADDup an excellent UK site about ADHD.
Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support - US Site, by Barbara Kirby.
The National Autistic Society UK
To visit my AS and Autism Webrings, go to my page on Wargrave House
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