As Patrick reached 18 months old, he was still just making baby noises and not forming any words or sounds. When his brother went for a hearing test they also tested Patrick, and both boys were found to have glue ear. Could this be the cause of all Patrick’s problems? We certainly hoped so.
Both boys then had grommets inserted for the first time; both boys went on to have further sets inserted. Whereas Patrick’s brother made progress Patrick didn’t. His behaviour deteriorated due to frustration.
We were sent to see a paediatrician at our local hospital. Patrick was sent for various tests, but nothing could be found. Patrick was then granted a place at a Special Needs nursery one day a week. This meant a journey of 30 minutes each way. Patrick also attended our local nursery and playgroup. I stayed with him at the playgroup due to his behaviour, e.g. not sitting when asked to.
Patrick appeared to enjoy being with other children, but played alongside them rather than with them. At the special needs nursery, Patrick was under a period of assessment, and to be honest had a pretty awful time there. I, in my naivety, allowed this to go on. We were still seeing the paediatrician on a regular basis, and these meetings also included, the Special Needs Nursery head, and a Psychologist.
These meetings were difficult, and I will be honest we fell out with them. The meeting decided that Patrick was Autistic, and therefore did not need speech therapy. We questioned this and said we felt that Patrick had speech difficulties. It was then arranged that we should see the foremost expert in Autism and that she would assess Patrick. So we did this, and she confirmed, the same day that we saw her, that Patrick was not autistic.
We went back to the group meeting and they accepted this diagnosis, somewhat reluctantly and with no apology. (We did reading on the subject and felt confident that we were right). They then made a referral to a Diagnostic Unit some 20 miles from our home. The group were dismissive of Patrick’s future, very gloomy, to the extent that my husband asked if they were saying that Patrick was going to be weaving baskets! Their response to that yes if we were lucky – Oh how I wish I could meet them now!
We were offered speech and language input on a monthly basis for a set number of weeks, but Patrick needed this on a daily basis. He was accepted into the Diagnostic Unit when he was 4, and travelled daily in a taxi. At the diagnostic unit he did receive some input for a speech and language therapist, but we decided to employ a private therapist. She came in on a weekly basis worked with Patrick and me and I carried on the work during the week. It was during this time that she introduced me to Makaton, and this helped Patrick’s communication greatly.
From the Diagnostic Unit Patrick was fortunate enough to get a place at Dawn House School. He started there in 1991 at the age of 5. He went as a weekly boarder and this broke our hearts, but Patrick loved it. I’m sure, at first, he thought he was on holiday!
Dawn House provided Patrick with everything he needed. He was in a school that was a total communication environment, and he had access to up-to-date equipment and techniques. The education was excellent, pitched at the right level and he was in a small class, no more than 10 children and there was support staff in the class room.
The most important thing Dawn House gave Patrick was confidence and an understanding of his disability. It also gave him the belief in his own ability. They taught Patrick techniques to overcome his difficulties, which to this day he still uses. The care side was also excellent, encouraging Patrick to be independent and develop his skills.
When Patrick started at Dawn House he could say mama and dada, by the end of his time there, Patrick was speaking quite clearly and fluently - don’t get me wrong he still had difficulties and his speech deteriorated if anxious or tired.
The social side was excellent. Patrick was mixing with his peers within the school, but was also going into the community for various activities eg Cubs. Patrick made some good friends at Dawn House and continues to be in contact with them now.
For the 9 years that Patrick was at Dawn House, he was incredibily happy.
Patrick was settled at Dawn House, but at the age of 14, we decided, with the support of the school and an educational psychologist, that Patrick was ready to move to a local Speech and Language Unit attached to a mainstream school. Here he would receive an education up to G.C.S.E level and receive regular speech and language input. This was not an easy decision for us or Patrick, but he agreed to it and spent 3 very positive years there, leaving with the equivalent of 10 G.C.S.E.’s, including English Language!
Patrick then went onto the local college, where he spent another 3 years, 2 of which were doing a Btec diploma. Patrick receive no additional support while at the college, but was still on the speech and language list and seen once a term.
Imagine our surprise and delight when Patrick came home and said he had applied for university. Patrick applied for 5 courses and had 5 conditional offers, he then just had to wait for his Btec results to see if they were good enough to take up one of the offers.
Patrick’s results arrived and he had achieved excellent marks, distinctions and merits, across the board. Patrick not only achieved excellent marks, but was offered a scholarship as well.
In September 2006, Patrick moved into a house with a friend and started at University. They are offering him the support he needs, by providing computers, printers, etc. Patrick is studying Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and has passed his first year exams.
We are constantly amazed at what Patrick achieves, and believe that this is down in no small way to the excellent start Patrick had at Dawn House School.
Is this the end of Patrick’s amazing journey, I honestly don’t know, but I know that he will succeed to the best of his ability in whatever he does.
Thank you Dawn House, we owe you so much.
- Patrick's Mother