Liam is my 14-year-old son who is a self-confessed geek and loves all things science related. He was born with cerebral palsy which can mean that he struggles a bit with his fine motor skills. When Liam was 7 years old, we started to notice changes in his behaviour which suggested that there might be other things that were affecting him. He became very averse to loud noises and repetitive in his actions, he also became very unsettled if his routine was disrupted. We thought it might be autism but really struggled with getting access to the right professionals who could give us some advice and a diagnosis.
This all happened at a time when we were planning to emigrate to Australia, and we decided to wait until we had moved to do more investigation. As it turned out that was the right decision, getting a diagnosis in Australia was a much quicker process and within weeks of being there we got a referral to a specialist via a psychologist we had seen.
Liam initially attended mainstream school in Australia, but it was clear he was getting swallowed up and not getting the education he deserved. We could tell he was falling behind and was not getting any real learning or enjoying his time at school. Fortunately for us, the headmaster at his school also recognised that Liam was not settled and was not making friends easily. He was struggling to communicate and was just not fitting in. This headmaster was our saviour, he identified the local schools where the pupil size was much smaller and where, he believed, Liam could get the type of support he needed.
After some negotiation, we were able to secure him a place at one of these schools which had only 60 pupils and Liam soon began to thrive. The school had more of a family environment – all of the students knew each other well and whilst there were only a couple of students who had autism, Liam was never made to feel excluded or different. The school arranged for him to do all of his studies on the computer which was much easier for him, and his marks skyrocketed. He also had music therapy which helped him tremendously. He developed a great love of music and in particular the drums.
Learn, Understand, Accept
We have since returned to the UK for family reasons, but I am convinced that without the support of the headmaster in finding the right school for him, Liam would not be the confident teenager he is today. He now attends a mainstream school back here in the UK where he continues to thrive. He has reached the top set in his science class which would not have been possible had the headmaster in Australia and the school he attended not provided the nurturing and encouragement he needed.