I’m so proud of my boy

by Nigel Bratley

Things in life didn’t start well for Oliver. He was born 11 weeks prematurely in 2003 and spent his first six months on oxygen.

A year later, when I started taking Oliver to a premature baby/toddler group, I noticed something was different about him.  He didn’t want to play with other children or join in the nursery songs with staff and was also unhappy at snack time when he had to sit down with others.

At pre-school he struggled to mix well with his peers and his teachers noticed that he was very fidgety and wouldn’t sit still even for story time. Oliver would kick out and swing his arms hurting other children. After several weeks of observations his class teacher asked if I had thought about getting him statemented; this made me very upset and I asked if I could go away and process this.

At home we were struggling too, Oliver would wake up after an hour’s sleep (if he even went to sleep!) and then stay awake until the early hours. It was tough being a single parent.

Once I agreed to the statementing, Oliver went through a number of observations at school and tests with a paediatrician where a diagnosis of ADHD was given. At the time I had very mixed emotions, I was happy there was a reason behind his behaviour and there was some way that this could be helped along with extra support in school, but at the same time I felt I had put a ‘label’ on my son and he would always be classed as ‘different’.

After several years of mainstream school where Oliver received 1:1 support in the classroom, there were still some concerns.  He found it difficult to be in the classroom (he was excluded three times within a four month period) and spent the remainder of year five with an internal exclusion.  Things had become really bad.

After consulting with the SENCO teacher, it was agreed to revisit the paediatrician with an expected diagnosis of Asperger’s, however the diagnosis he received was one of ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder).

It was recommended that Oliver move to a local special needs school. This move made an amazing difference. They were brilliant with him and he became a much happier child; he started to do well in his lessons and even received the Star Pupil award that year!

Oliver is now currently half-way through year nine at a local special needs school; he is a very happy young man who has made massive leaps forward with his self-awareness and interaction with his peer group. He has also been put forward to do GCSEs in all his subjects over the next few years and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

My son and I have a very close bond, as you would imagine, as it has just been the two of us for the past 13 years. It has been the most fascinating 13 years of my life doing the things that some people can only dream of. We’ve managed to do lots of travelling, most of which I have turned into educational tools. These are just a few of the places we have been and topics we have covered:

  • Florida for fun and moon landing history
  • Ypres (Belgium) and Vienna (Austria) for first world war history
  • Normandy (France) for the Bayeux Tapestry and Normandy beach landings
  • Berlin and Hamburg (Germany) for world war two history
  • Prague (Czech Republic), Billund and Odense (Denmark)

And I have to admit that we’re both thrill seekers, so our long list of adventures may sound a little hair-raising to you.

  • Helicopter, jet boat and air boat rides
  • Zip wires
  • Caving
  • Abseiling down Leasowe Lighthouse for Autism Together
  • Riding the Olympic bobsleigh at Innsbruck (Austria)

Apart from travel and thrill seeking, Oliver has a great love for music and has been taking drumming lessons for four years now. He’s been told he has a natural talent for rhythm and he can’t help giving impromptu rap sessions to the children in our street and at school.

Oliver loves to be on the go and has given plenty back to the local community.  He’s run two 10k races raising almost £400 for local autism charities and has a 12k run planned this year over the Kohlbrand Brucke bridge at Hamburg harbour.

I look forward to many more exciting, fun-packed years with my boy. Having ASD and ADHD hasn’t stopped him and it certainly won’t stop the both of us!

Oliver is now currently half-way through year nine at a local special needs school; he is a very happy young man who has made massive leaps forward with his self-awareness and interaction with his peer group.