It is hard enough dealing with an autism spectrum disorder but middle son Elliot, nine (10 on 11 December 2017) also has severe ADHD for which he takes medication, Tourette’s syndrome and hypermobility.
His behaviour can impact on the whole family including his two brothers – George, 12, and Oscar, seven and mum Sam says, ‘George and Oscar have met a lot of children like Elliot at Daisy Chain and that has helped them understand and accept him more.’
When Elliot was born, Sam and husband Paul, had no idea there was anything wrong, ‘There were no developmental delays, we didn’t have a clue but with hindsight I can see indications. Elliot needed a lot of space to himself, struggled with eye contact and he would seek sensation, rubbing his forehead on the carpet.
‘When he started toddling he was into everything – if he could climb it, jump off it, break it – he would. Then when I had Oscar, Elliot’s behaviour seemed to step up, he was on the go constantly. It was a really hard time but we just got on with it. Then when he went to pre-school they said they couldn’t handle him, he was very hyperactive. They brought in the educational psychologist and then we were referred to a paediatrician.’
Elliot was diagnosed at age four-and-a-half after 14 months of tests and observations. Sam says: ‘At school he would paint the guinea pigs in their cage because he thought they needed colour, he wouldn’t interact with the other children, he didn’t even want to play with his brothers.’
Sam, a former secondary school teacher, had to sacrifice her career, ‘There was no childcare for Elliot and I needed to take care of him. It’s not easy to accept because I did expect to return to work.’
By the time he reached Year Two, Elliot could not manage in mainstream school and is now at Beaumont Hill Academy, part of The Education Village Academy Trust in Darlington. ‘He is flourishing there,’ explains Sam. ‘He gets the specialist support he needs but in time he will be able to access some of the mainstream facilities so he can do his GCSEs. Elliot has a huge interest in history, he loves facts and learning, he’s like a sponge and very academic.’
Husband Paul is also a teacher and was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder a couple of years ago at age 42. ‘A lot of things fell into place then. Paul and Elliot are like two peas in a pod – they call themselves the ‘A’ team because they’re awesome,’ she laughs.
‘It’s been a surprise learning curve, an eye opener, it’s changed the life path I expected to follow,’ Sam admits.
The family have accessed services at Daisy Chain for over five years. ‘We love how relaxed it is and the facilities are fantastic at the farm and the day centre. We couldn’t access mainstream play areas because it would be too much for Elliot so Daisy Chain was a breath of fresh air – there were no expectations of him, he can go on the computers or have a game of pool with his Dad.
‘George and Oscar benefit from the siblings group too. We used the gardens in the summer, the sensory garden is lovely. It’s so nice to know there is somewhere we can go as a family and we are not judged. Elliot can use the sensory rooms as well if he needs to.’
Things can be challenging at home as Elliot can be irritated by being touched and his behaviour with ADHD can be impulsive. ‘He needs his own space so we have converted the loft so he can have his own bedroom. We also have to make sure all the boys get a chance to talk as Elliot would keep on about his interests and not give his brothers a chance to get a word in,’ she smiles.
Daisy Chain day trips are also very welcome in the school holidays. ‘It means we can access mainstream attractions in a supportive group and enjoy a day out as a family,’ she concludes.
19th October 2017