Young children on the autism spectrum often feel anxious and isolated - a tailored education can change their life.
When you imagine a three-year-old boy, do you picture him playing in a park? Making friends at day care? Telling stories and bursting with curious questions?
For most children, the early years are full of exploration and confidence building. But for children on the autism spectrum it can be a time of fear and isolation. Many parents don’t want their child to feel distressed so they stay home to avoid public places and crowds.
For Aaron, these common signs of autism arose around his first birthday. “Aaron was actually a very quiet, happy baby. I was so relieved that he would play with his toys on his own, unlike his big brother Isaac. Aaron used to ‘goo, gaa’ and would mimic our cats meowing. However, around one year old, he just became quiet, wouldn’t make any mimicking noises…by two years old Aaron had less than five words,” says Julie, Aaron's mum.
It wasn’t just verbal communication that Aaron struggled with. He developed sensory fears and severe separation anxiety.
He had always been a good eater, but textures of certain foods would make him sick. He couldn’t go to shopping centres or anywhere with crowds or loud noises.
Julie told me that when she enrolled Aaron in day-care, she thought that socialising with other children his age would help him overcome these fears. But when she dropped him off, he would cry to the point of vomiting.
“I knew he would not be able to cope with mainstream schooling, as he was not able to deal with children of his own age,” Julie says. “If he isn’t taught the way that he knows how to learn, he's not going to learn anything, and he'll just be left behind, and he'll suffer with that."
Julie’s fears about Aaron being misunderstood or treated differently are why we work so hard at Aspect to make the world more welcoming for people on the autism spectrum. We want people to see children like Aaron as a ‘different brilliant’.
When Julie visited one of our Aspect schools, she knew it was a place where Aaron could thrive. The small class sizes, expert teachers and visual learning tools helped Aaron find his strengths and develop confidence in his own abilities.
Outside of school, he has overcome many of the fears he used to have about loud noises and crowds. He’s made huge progress in managing his sensory challenges and his anxiety levels have been reduced. He is now more comfortable in social situations and is able to express himself through the use of visual picture exchange, singing and sport. He can go out to parks, beaches and theme parks. He is able to wait in lines and deal with large crowds.
Thanks to the care and expertise of his Aspect teachers, the challenges he experienced as a young child are no longer so restrictive and life-limiting.
What’s more, the weight of worry about the future has lifted for Julie now that she knows her son is equipped with the tools and skills he needs to go out into the world and follow his dreams.
Stories like Aaron's are only made possible with the support of the autism community. Together, we are making a better, more welcoming world for people on the autism spectrum.
Aspect School Sponsorships and why they are so important
For the 1,187 students enrolled at our Aspect schools, routine and consistency are crucial to the positive outcomes we have just explored. With the impact of financial uncertainty on our Aspect families growing over the past 12 months, it is more important than ever that Aspect is able to provide Aspect School Sponsorships to protect the education of more children like Aaron. You can learn more about the impact of an Aspect School Sponsorship here.