The Child Within the Man
By Julie Telfer
Key Themes: Kanner's autism, carer's story, practical problems, social services, accomodation, family
"From begining to end this book kept me riveted and on an emotional rollercoaster. Julie brings Kanner's Autism sharply into focus, with all the trials and tribulations the family have experienced. Everyone will take something special away with them from this excellent and informative book." - Rev. Jan McDonald, Mental Health Care Chaplain
Christopher's Story was written for my son in the hope of raising awareness of (Kanner's) autism and severe challenging behaviour. It is primarily a story of love and of a determination to remain together as a family, when the only alternative offered was residential care. The book details our fight to secure schooling, accommodation and social services support - the later issue has yet to be resolved. I would truly love others to look beyond the disability and see Christopher for who he really is. I hope this book goes some way towards making this a reality. Julie Telfer
In September 1991 Christopher had reached the appropriate age for attending nursery, but it was during this time that we suddenly discovered that his complex needs would seriously impact upon the services which were readily available to other children. Nursery placements in the area were typically well sought after but as children with speech, social and learning difficulties are generally given priority, we were not concerned about securing a placement. The application form had been completed and returned and we were just waiting to discover if he would receive morning or afternoon provision.
An educational psychologist had asked to visit us at home but as other professionals often made the same request, we did not suspect that the visit was in any way connected to the nursery placement. However, it was not long into the visit before we were being informed that Christopher could not attend nursery as the Department had no resources available to fund the 1-1 assistant which he needed. The psychologist went on to stress that given the extent of Christopher’s learning delay and social development, it might be more beneficial for us to delay nursery until the following year in any event. At which time the financial situation could prove to be different and he could simply start a year later than usual.
The situation was not ideal but we appeared to have no choice other than to accept it. After all, if there was no money available to fund an assistant, it would not be a safe environment for Christopher or the other children. It was disappointing to have spent the past few months preparing for this milestone, only for it to be delayed in this way and so we considered what other opportunities were available in the meantime. We were informed of a playgroup which was only a few miles from where we lived and decided to introduce Christopher. It was a friendly group and the children who attended were all pre-school age, with a variety of disabilities. The room which had been allocated was used as a typical play group on other days of the week, but on Wednesday mornings it was used by families such as ours. The room itself was enormous and whilst a small section housed a few tables and chairs from which the parents could watch the children playing, the remainder was filled with a lovely selection of toys, activities, bikes and other sit-and-ride vehicles.
The other children were able to amuse themselves and many played together, but Christopher typically roamed around, throwing various objects and toys as he inevitably did in all environments. Attempts to lash out at the other children meant that it was necessary for Philip and me to take it in turns to follow him throughout each session. But whilst one of us kept a close watch on what he was doing, it provided the other parent with the opportunity to sit and chat with the mums and dads, if only for a brief time. Having realised that we lived only a couple of roads away from one of the mothers and her little boy, arrangements were made for us to travel together and we soon became used to the Wednesday morning routine and being part of the group, which was a good source of support and advice in the early years.
Soon we were preparing for Christopher to begin nursery again. It was an exciting time, but also a worrying one. He still had no communication ability and his tendency to attack without provocation remained. He could harm others but he was also very vulnerable. We were anxious to say the least.
The summer holidays were fast approaching, but although details of the type of provision which was to be offered had not as yet arrived, we were not too concerned at first. But as the weeks continued to pass and we had still not received any communication from the nursery, we decided to make contact ourselves, where we were informed that there was no placement.
Our confusion was closely followed by despair when, having contacted the Education Department, it was confirmed that Christopher did not have a nursery placement. In our ignorance, we had assumed that as the Education Department had requested that Christopher start nursery a year later, the Education Department would have therefore reserved a placement the following year. Apparently, the reality of the situation was that we had been expected to re-apply for a placement ourselves once again and wait to discover if there were sufficient resources available for Christopher to attend. The misunderstanding and evident disappointment made little difference to the scenario in any event. If there had been sufficient funding for him to receive support at nursery this year, without our re-applying for a placement it was no longer relevant, as all of the places had now been taken.
This product was added to our catalog on Friday 03 November, 2006.