Ken was already aware of Daisy Chain as he regularly brought teams from Kirklevington Grange Prison to help out on the farm. ‘My role was to take people into the community to work and the first job at the farm was to sort the pond out and undertake gardening jobs. I knew straight away that Daisy Chain would be ideal for Rowan so we always go regularly and he loves it.’
When Rowan was born, Ken was quickly aware that he was a little bit different. ‘I have two grown up daughters so I did have some experience and recognised he was not quite the same as other children,’ he explains.
When Rowan started nursery at the age of three his differences were recognised and he began the process of diagnosis. The traits of autism were quickly recognised. Says Ken, ‘If someone just smiled at him he would be straight over to sit with them. It’s ok when he is a cute little boy but it won’t be the same when he gets older. He will need to be aware of other people’s personal space.’
Ken is determined to give Rowan lots of life experiences especially in the great outdoors. ‘It can be hard to get Rowan out of the house to do things but once he does he really enjoys it. You have to learn how to handle children with autism and motivate them to do things. As well as Daisy Chain, we go swimming, visit National Trust sites, go walking or fishing. I let him choose so he has that control which makes him happy and it means he has got out of the house and been active.’
For Ken, Daisy Chain has been a place to learn more about autism as well as doing his own research, ‘With Daisy Chain, it has been a really good journey for both myself and Rowan. You meet other families and you can see what works for them. All autistic children are different but you can still get new ideas to try and see if they work.’
Ken and Rowan have been attending Daisy Chain for seven years now and enjoy the holiday trips as well as activity days and after school club. Ken explains, ‘It’s a routine for him. At Daisy Chain, he particularly enjoys the TV room, he always wants to go there first and then to the computers and the wii. He’s not keen on cooking but he loves the outdoor areas, playing football, visiting the animals and the go-karts.’
The awareness of autism that Daisy Chain raises is also particularly important to Ken because of the understanding he believes needs to generated in education and the community. ‘All kids deserve a good education and so does Rowan. He enjoys school now that he is in a primary which is set up to be autism friendly with areas set aside where he can have quiet time. He had been two years behind previously but he is catching up now academically.
‘There is a lot to contend with for young people with autism so Daisy Chain offers some respite and if they do get frustrated they can let off steam there and everyone understands, they are fine with it.’
Now, seven years after diagnosis, and with Daisy Chain as a haven they can regularly access, Ken says Rowan has become mellow and well behaved. ‘The after school club has been really good for Rowan, he very much benefits from that and has learned to start to calm himself down if he feels upset. In the earlier days, communication was a particular issue for Rowan and he could get quite frustrated. Now he has learned to communicate better and how to make people understand how he feels and what he needs, he is a much happier and content young boy.’