Will and Sammy's Story
The support that brothers Will and Sammy have received at their Aspect school has been life-changing. There’s a long road ahead but with the right help, both boys will continue to uncover their strengths and work towards a fulfilling, independent future.
Eight-year-old Will was a dream baby. He smiled and ‘gooed’ and ‘gaahed’ with the best of them. But when his parents Hannah and Mark noticed he was lying around a lot and had become mesmerised for hours on end by the wheels of his truck, they knew something wasn’t right. After his speech stalled, Will was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum.
Will’s autism affects every single part of his life and even the simplest tasks like getting dressed can be incredibly difficult for him. Will is not the only one in his family on the spectrum. Six-year-old Sammy, his younger brother, was later diagnosed with autism too.
Having one child on the spectrum is challenging enough, but with two, the stresses only grew for Hannah and Mark. It wasn’t until they got in touch with Aspect that they started to relax a little, knowing that their boys would get the specialist support that they needed.
For both Will and Sammy, communication is a daunting challenge. Will struggles to communicate at all. Most of the time, the words don’t come out and when they do, they’re often all jumbled up. This makes him feel incredibly frustrated and self-conscious. When he is around other people, the anxiety can be overwhelming.
While Sammy’s communication is a little more developed, he still struggles to cope in new environments and with unfamiliar faces. To cope, he plays with his beloved toy trains, refusing to let anyone else into his world. Sammy can then get very confused and distressed when he has to return to the real world without his trains and fit in with others.
Both boys were fortunate to receive Aspect’s vital early intervention and play therapy, which not only helped them gain valuable skills but also gave Hannah and Mark the knowledge and tools to better cope at home.
Hannah says, “I learnt so much about how autism affects the boys and how my husband and I could help them develop. It made us feel more confident and in control. We also made some lovely friends. There are lots of ups and downs for us mums and dads, but we all help each other through.”
By the time Will was old enough for primary school, he was experiencing a great deal of frustration and separation anxiety. So the thought of him spending five days a week in an unfamiliar environment was incredibly stressful for the family. When he got a place at an autism-specific Aspect school, Hannah and Mark’s worries turned to relief straight away.
“All our fears disappeared and Will settled in so quickly. In a week, our anxious little man was happily jumping out of the car to get to class. Now Sammy’s at the school too, and he’s exactly the same.”
Even though their autism causes similar challenges for both boys, their personalities are completely different. Hannah describes them as like “chalk and cheese”. Will is serene, quiet and gentle, while Sammy is exuberant and cheeky (with a bit of a mischievous side too). They also have a younger sister, Ella, who they are both so affectionate and sweet towards!
Personalised learning plans and long-term goals are helping both boys make incredible progress. With the dedicated support of his teachers, Will is now better at coping with his anxieties and is much more willing to give new things a go. Taking gymnastics classes, having swimming lessons, going on a trip to the zoo – Hannah and Mark used to think that these things would be impossible for Will. But now he’s done them all. He is also learning to communicate through the use of an iPad program, which is incredible progress.
Sammy is also coming on in leaps and bounds. His teachers have helped him learn to work at his desk without his toy trains. He’s started interacting well with the other children and can even write out his name all on his own!
“We have constant input from the boys’ teachers. They give us incredible insight into their progress at school, which is a fantastic reassurance.” says Hannah.
Will and Sammy still have a long way to go, and will need our help throughout their education and into adulthood.
Hannah and Mark want both of them to have an effective communication system so they can build relationships, meet their potential and find something they love to do with their lives long term. We look forward to being there with them as they work towards this goal.
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