Living with autism Roundtree family – Jude For Frances and Clay Roundtree Daisy Chain has provided a lifeline as part of their son’s social life and education. ‘It’s great, we love it, friends who live in other areas are very jealous that they don’t have a Daisy Chain,’ says mum Frances. Jude, 14, was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum when he was just four years old. Frances explains: ‘He was slow to start talking so we thought he might have problems with his hearing. We took him for tests but his hearing was fine so he went for some speech and language tests. Then they did a test for autism and the next we knew he was diagnosed as having autism. It was really shocking for the whole family, it was so unexpected.’ Frances and husband Clay have three boys, Jude’s brothers are Crispin, 16 and Isaac, 11. ‘It has been really tough for all of us. Jude had one-to-one support when he was in primary school and he could cope thanks to that. When he reached Year 9 in secondary school he could no longer cope with the mainstream environment. He couldn’t keep up, there was too much information being given to him too fast which he couldn’t process. He was getting more and more stressed and distressed. It was clear he wasn’t going to manage GCSEs. He was also starting to refuse help because he didn’t want to be singled out so there was no way he could stay in mainstream.’ After a meeting with one of the care team to see what Daisy Chain could offer, Jude now attends the day centre and farm two days a week where he is completing an animal care qualification. For the remainder of the week he attends The Skills Academy in Billingham where he learns employment skills, training and personal development. Jude also attends one of Daisy Chain’s social clubs for teenagers and enjoys activity days at the farm. Frances says: ‘Jude really enjoys attending Daisy Chain, he gets excellent support that suits his needs from the staff and he can attend without us. It’s good for him and something different. It’s lovely to see him attending the social club as well as working with the animals and not being stressed with tests and exams.’ The family live at Ingleby Barwick and together they enjoy a whole host of family activities. Frances says: ‘Jude is very much the middle child, Crispin is very academic, Isaac very lively and Jude is quiet, he needs the time to process what is being said to him, what is being asked of him. He also needs to be taught all the things other children pick up through observation, how to respond to people and personal space. ‘Jude enjoys going to the social group and chill club at Daisy Chain, and if he's happy I'm happy. I love that the people there 'get' him. It has been nice to have people seeing Jude in terms of what he CAN do instead of what he can't. It has been wonderful finding there were other educational options for him that would suit him better.’ 11th October 2017 Picture caption: On sofa L-R: Crispin, Clay, Isaac, Frances and Jude.