Rosemary knew that Shakur, her 2-year-old son, had some difficulties.  ‘He didn’t speak. He would only communicate if he really connected with someone, so I knew he needed to be somewhere quite small where the staff would be able to spend time with him.  I visited 2 other Pre-schools but realised Mary’s offered a better setting, even though it was a bit further from home’.

Sharon, our Pre-school manager, completed a referral for Shakur to get a specialist assessment straightaway.  He was diagnosed with autism and visits from Speech and Language and Occupational Therapists were quickly organised.  Said Rosemary, ‘Sharon and Sinita helped with all the paperwork so we could get the help he needed. It was a blessing’.

In the meantime, Shakur settled in with Dora, his key worker.  ‘She could calm him when he got upset – and she sorted out a routine for him.  That really helped, particularly with toileting. He got to learn where everything was – and Dora would tell him exactly what they were going to do, so he wouldn’t freak out and run around in circles.  He loved being at Mary’s, he was always smiling. It was familiar and he trusted his teachers. He wouldn’t stay with my sister but he would stay with his key worker, which was such a relief for me’.

She continued, ‘We realised that Shakur was not interested in sign language so both Shakur and I were introduced to PECS (A Picture Exchange Communications System), so he could use pictures to show what he wanted.  Explained Sharon, ‘Every child here has an ‘All about me’ book which is tailored to his or her individual needs. For Shakur, the pictures were much more specific, showing a coat, a snack, playing outside and so on.  We put them on the wall so we made a communications space for him. When he wanted something, he would point to it and we would reinforce it in our words to him.’ In fact, Rosemary still uses the system at home, sticking pictures to the fridge.  ‘It helps him to make his own choices. I learnt such a lot from Mary’s’.

And now Shakur is at ‘big school’.  Said Sharon, ‘Shakur would come to Mary’s from 9 till 12…then the time was extended to include lunch…then into the afternoon.  Rosemary and Sinita had regular meetings to plot what Shakur had achieved and to set goals so we had a detailed programme of his development to date and Sinita was able to get an early education plan ready for his next school.

Also his key person here used to travel on the bus with him to the school, at first with his Mum and then without, so he would get to know the environment. He’s settled there now. It just needed time and patience’.

Said Rosemary, ‘I’m amazed at Shakur’s progress.  He’s no longer just ‘stuck’ in his own world. He can move forward and it’s taken so much pressure off me’.

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