Boy ‘gets more respect’ following autism diagnosis
Melissa Till from Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire, has hailed the service she received from Keele-based charity, Caudwell Children, as ‘life-changing’ for her 10-year-old son, Levi.
“Finally, after 10 years, Levi has been diagnosed with autism and it is such a relief as that opens up so many more doors for him,” she explained. “Now that he has a recognised condition I’ve noticed that he is being treated differently, he’s not seen as a naughty child anymore and he gets much more respect.”
Melissa noticed signs that her son was developing differently to his sister at just a few months old but despite repeated requests, it wasn’t until he was 5-years-old that Levi was referred to the local Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) where he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
“Even after the diagnosis of ADHD I still felt there was something more,” exclaimed Melissa. “I could see he was really struggling with sensory overload and he could have a meltdown at any time.
“But nobody listened to me, they said I was being daft, so he remained undiagnosed.”
Finally, two and a half years ago, a senior consultant suggested referring Levi for an assessment for autism.
“I thought, this is it I’m finally getting somewhere but, unbelievably, the clinicians that Levi saw kept passing him on to other specialists and we were getting nowhere,” explained Melissa.
Frustrated with the endless waiting for an assessment, Melissa contacted Staffordshire-based charity, Caudwell Children, and found out the charity was about to launch a new autism service at their purpose-built facility at Keele University.
Trudi Beswick, Chief Executive of the charity, said: “Statutory services like CAMHS have been struggling to cope with the demand on their services for too long and stories like Melissa’s are all too common. Our new autism service has been set up to alleviate some of the pressure on the NHS and prove there is a more efficient and effective way to deliver autism assessment and support.”
The Caudwell Children Autism Service, which fully launched in May, provides comprehensive multi-disciplinary ASD assessments and immediate post-diagnostic support from their state-of-the-art Caudwell International Children’s Centre on the Keele University Science & Innovation Park.
“I couldn’t believe it,” enthused Melissa. “We’d been waiting for a diagnosis for nearly three years and now I was being told that if I could get a doctor or teacher to refer Levi onto the Caudwell Children Autism Service he could be assessed and diagnosed within 11 weeks. It was amazing!”
Available to any child aged from 4 to 11 with difficulties which suggest they would benefit from a multi-disciplinary diagnostic assessment for autism, referrals can be made by a health, social care or education professional.
Families on low incomes can apply for 80% funding from Caudwell Children and the charity’s dedicated Family Support team can assist with finding the remaining 20%.
Mrs Beswick added: “In the first few months of the Centre being open we have received some wonderful feedback, children who have not been able to access any other service because of the extensive waiting lists or the inaccessible environments have come through our doors and got the answers they need to move on with their lives.
“For some it is a diagnosis of autism and learning what that means to them, for others it is confirmation that it is not ASD and detailed advice about what may be causing their child’s difficulties.
“Whatever the outcome, we provide families with a clear picture to help them understand their unique situation and give them practical advice and support to help them adapt to the diagnosis.”
Melissa says that Levi is an extremely clever boy, who particularly excels at maths, and her aim now is to secure an Education, Health and Care plan (EHC) for her son.
“The EHC plan describes a child or young person’s special educational, health and social care needs, and without it I won’t be able to get Levi the support he needs.
“If Levi hadn’t received a diagnosis there would have been no chance of getting the plan, so I’m extremely grateful to the charity.
“I’ve had to fight tooth and nail for my son but now, thanks to Caudwell Children, Levi has a much brighter future and I can’t thank them enough!”
You can find out more about the Caudwell Children Autism Service here.