Mother’s message of thanks on World Autism Awareness Day
The mother of a 17-year-old boy from Felpham, in West Sussex, is celebrating World Autism Awareness Day by publicly thanking the charity that supported her son when he was just five years old.
Tim Wagter was diagnosed with autism at an early age. The condition is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them.
The condition left Tim nonverbal until he was three years old and when he did finally try to speak it was almost impossible to understand him.
“It was difficult in the early years as Tim had a number of sensory issues,” explained his mother, Sally. “He struggled to cope with noise levels and certain sounds and this led to him having lots of meltdowns in public.
“I know the feeling of despair when you feel that you can’t go out to places because of the fear of other parents looking at you sideways, wondering what’s wrong with your child.”
By the time Tim was five Sally, and her husband Erik, were struggling to support their son. Luckily they were told about Caudwell Children, the national charity that provides practical and emotional support to disabled children and their families.
“Caudwell Children were amazing!” exclaimed Erik. “With their support we began to understand what Tim was going through and how his processing difficulties made it hard for him to be a part of things.
“As a result of their help we began to celebrate everything that he could do and we made him feel accepted.
“We tried to see life through his eyes and we used what motivated him to help him access learning.”
Tim’s condition meant that he was unable to cooperate and he was often perceived as being a naughty child. At the age of eight his Headteacher told his parents that they couldn’t teach him anything.
“From a very early age Tim’s reports had described him as ‘inflexible’ and ‘prone to temper tantrums’, said Sally. “Labelling him in this way wasn’t helping at all so at the age of eight we decided to take him out of school and have him tutored on a one-to-one basis at home.
“As a teacher who has taught children with autism I know that a lot of schools, through no fault of their own, don’t know how to support a child with the condition.
“I simply didn’t believe that they couldn’t teach my son, when I looked into his face I saw only hope.”
Throughout this period, and up until Tim was 14, Caudwell Children continued to provide support for Tim and the family with access to a range of interventions to support their individual circumstances.
Although Tim did return to mainstream school for the first year of his secondary education, Sally and Erik fought for a year to secure money from the county to provide their son with a personal educational budget.
“It’s been fantastic for Tim,” enthused Sally. “He’s had published authors teaching him English and an ex-West End actor teaching him drama.
“His life has completely turned around. He is nearly 18 with plenty of friends, he’s secured the equivalent of 8 GCSEs, including a distinction for a music diploma at college, and has become a gifted pianist, even writing film scores and advertising his services for hire.”
By discovering what interested their son, and allowing him to do the things that he liked to do, Tim has flourished academically. So much so that he was recently offered a place at the prestigious BIMM Institute, Europe’s largest and leading music college.
“It’s a remarkable story, and one that parents of autistic children need to know,” said Sally. “Tim’s overcome so many difficulties and had so many breakthroughs and he’s exceeded our wildest dreams.
“He’s excited by his future and the career ahead of him, be it song writing, video editing, or acting.
“We know that autistic children are all different and respond in different ways, and some will have a different outcome.
“Tim’s gone from being nonverbal and uncooperative, to singing and entertaining people in public, it’s wonderful to see.”
One thing that Sally is certain about is the importance of support from charities like Caudwell Children. “I don’t believe Tim would have been anywhere near this level without their help and we can’t than them enough,” continued Sally. “We’re lucky in that our approach to Tim’s condition, along with Caudwell Children’s long period of support, has helped our son to lead a happy, active and independent life.”
Trudi Beswick, CEO of Caudwell Children, is delighted by the family’s message of thanks. She said: “It only seems like yesterday when we agreed to support Tim.
“He’s made remarkable progress over the years and it’s incredible to see how he’s developed into a musical prodigy.
“With the public’s help we can support even more autistic children and young people like Tim.”
Caudwell Children has recently opened the Caudwell International Children’s Centre, set within the grounds of Keele University.
The £18 million Centre, located on Innovation Way, Keele Science & Innovation Park, is the UK’s first purpose built facility dedicated to providing assessment, support and research into neurodevelopmental conditions, including autism.
For more information on the charity’s new Caudwell Children Autism Service visit the web page here.
You can find out more about Tim Wagter and hear him perform through his website here.
You can find out more about Sally Wagter’s autism consultancy service through her website here.