Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Jacob's story

This is the poster, and here is Jacob's heart-warming story as told by his Mum...

Jacob was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old.  He struggles with social, communication, learning and the world around him.  From an early age we figured Jacob wasn't like other children, and although we loved him unconditionally, we knew that having him diagnosed would open up a world and different opportunities for him.

Jacob attended mainstream school until last  October ( age 8)  when we finally won our two year battle to get him into a school locally for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  It was a hard, long, emotional battle. At times I even wondered if it would be worth the fight.  I questioned if I was doing the right thing many times, although I knew the truth was he belonged there.

Myself and my husband stayed true to our beliefs, and I will never forget the elation and relief we felt on the day of the accepting phone call.  We have never looked back, and Jacob is now finally enjoying and getting something out of school life.  It's just a shame his life at mainstream was so upsetting for him.

He is a adorable boy who fills my heart with joy and laughter.  He is a wonderful, isolated, quiet, complicated character who, along with his sisters, has completed my husband and my life.

The iPad from Hearts and Minds has given him an escape, and he is for the first time enjoying Mathematics and English work as he can visually see and understand on the iPad.

His favourite 'game' is subway surf!  Put on by his elder sister, he enjoys the visual fast movements and giggles away while playing it!

Thank you so much for the iPad, we could never explain enough the difference it has made to our beautiful boy.

If your child needs an iPad please check out Hearts and Minds:

Twitter: @handmchallenge

This scheme began in Ireland:

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Jimmy 'Buttons' : or how an iPad helped one small boy with #autism

This article was originally posted on Crystal Jigsaw, a wonderful blog that covers life, farming, special needs and everything in between.  It's being reprinted here for #specialsaturday (details below) as the theme this week is iPads.  Links to how you can get an iPad for your child are also at the end of this piece.

 It was an auntie who christened him Jimmy 'Buttons'. He just couldn't pass them by. Phones, TV remotes, toys, keypads, you name it. But Jimmy has autism and he didn't always use those buttons in a useful way. That is until he started using an iPod Touch and then an iPad. According to Mum Katy, they helped with behaviour management, speech, motivation and his social skills. The family live in Donegal in North-West Ireland, but Katy is originally from Limehouse in East London.

The first signs of autism were when Jimmy lost the words he had as a baby, he wasn't comfortable in his clothes, began flapping his hands when he was excited or anxious, and developed an obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine. At first Katy felt like an over-anxious first -time Mum as she took her son back and forth to the GP with questions and worries. At playschool he still wasn't talking, and a referral to speech therapy eventually led to a diagnosis of autism in 2005. For his Mum the diagnosis came as a relief after all the uncertainty

After diagnosis Jimmy was referred to the local Assistive Technology Unit and various educational games were recommended. Even at just 3 years old, Jimmy 'Buttons' showed his family that he knew exactly what to do with them.

But with very little speech, it was still a struggle for anyone to understand his needs. One day in school he "threw a wobbler," and it took the teacher and his Mum almost two hours to get the word "teeth" out of him. To realise that your child is in pain and unable to explain or tell you where it hurts is heart-breaking, and could even have dangerous consequences.

Jimmy was already using a new communications App - Grace - and his toothache led to the inclusion of a whole section on the App about body parts together with a 'sore' button, so that if it happened again, he would be able to show and tell his Mum exactly where it hurt. Now at 9 his speech is much better, and it's mostly used as a reward and motivation for good behaviour. It's also brought the family together:

"He doesn't just sit and play on his own, he'll show us stuff, like trains that he's found on YouTube," says Katy. "He's learned to play Minecraft by watching his brother, and sometimes they do things together, and that's lovely to see."

It's not just kids with autism who can benefit. Even my own daughter, who has severe cerebral palsy, enjoys using the iPad. From watching the latest pop videos on Vevo, to interactive stories, to cause and effect apps, it provides great entertainment, and it's so easy to get her something new when she's bored. In September, I'm hoping to introduce her to a simple communications app in conjunction with her school.

Now the Irish scheme that helps children like Jimmy to get iPads is available in the UK through the Manchester-based Hearts and Minds charity.

It's very simple: Register on the website, collect old mobile phones and then swap them for an iPad. You will need a minimum of 165 phones. That may sound like a lot, but more than 1000 families in Ireland have succeeded and there are plenty of hints and tips on the website to help you. This scheme is open to families and schools and you don't have to have a child with special needs to take part.

What's in it for the charity? Well they make money from the scheme too, and this is will be used to build a school for children with autism in Manchester.

The info bit:

Twitter: @handmchallenge

There is also a similar scheme in Ireland:

If you know of anyone who could benefit from this scheme, please tell them :)

Special Saturday:

#specialsaturday which was set up by @savvywendy to improve awareness and increase understanding of special needs. It is now a global campaign and this week the topic is iPads, how they help kids with special needs and how to get them. @savvywendy is an inspirational mum of four kids, three with autism and other special needs. She is currently recovering from two strokes. Join #specialsaturday by 'liking' the facebook page -; following on twitter - @Specialsat and retweeting hashtag - #specialsaturday; or reading and following the Special Saturday Blog :

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A marathon race to build a school for autism

Want to get really fit and help children with autism?  Why not join the Hearts And Minds Challenge Marathon Team for the 2013 Manchester Marathon and help raise funds to build a school for autism.

Race date: 28th April 2013

Register: Now!  The sooner you register, the more time you will have to train and be ready.

Here is the link:

Race details:
Some changes have been made to the route for 2013 with the race village being located at Manchester United Football Club on the E2 Car Park in front of the stadium. The race now starts just a short walk away on the A56 White City Roundabout and finish outside the magnificent stadium of Old Trafford.

Some highlights of the new route:

  • The new race village will be situated at Old Trafford football stadium, on the E2 car park in front of the main stand.
  • The race will start on the A56 at the White City roundabout, a short walk from the race village at MUFC.
  • The marathon route keeps all of the great sections that competitors liked last year and misses the sections that through feedback have been removed.
  • The route will be held entirely on main roads
  • More of the route in Altrincham where the crowd support was amazing.
  • No narrow lanes; open rural sections; underpasses; or muddy areas.
  • There is a new finish outside Old Trafford stadium, Manchester United Football Club (MUFC) on Sir Matt Busby Way.

The improved course is even flatter than last year’s race with only 55m of elevation gain, so is great for anyone looking to do their first marathon, or for those looking to set a new personal best time.

Start and finish: Old Trafford, MUFC
Marathon Start: 09:00

More information:

More about the Hearts and Minds charity here:

Twitter: @handmchallenge 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Primary school through the eyes of a boy with Asperger's

Who says that kids with Asperger's don't look at the positives? An articulate journey through the primary school years..

Hi, I'm Fionn and one day when I'm famous they will tear down the house and find this and put it in a museum.

On June the 30th after 3 days labour pains and I was finally born. When I opened my eyes I saw Mum and Dad and that's where my story begins.

I had an older brother and sister who used to play with me on the trampoline and the climbing frame. When I went to school I was very young and I found it very hard to make friends. So Mum and Dad brought me to a specialist and I was diagnosed with Asperger's. This helped us all understand about me. At this stage I got another brother and we were really close.

One day towards the end of P2 I had a bad accident. I was on the trampoline with my brothers and a friend, who somersaulted and fell with such force I went up in the air and I landed on my head on the cement. I had a brain haemorrhage and a skull fracture. I was very ouchy.

When I got to P3 I made my first real friends. I sat beside M and we started talking during maths. Then we became best friends and he introduced me to his friends and that's where I met most of my friends today. In P4 I made Communion and had a fantastic party with balloons and coke! After Communion we went on holiday to Italy and had an awesome time. We had a huge villa with a big pool and a beach close.

In P5 I had a great teacher and a great assistant who I forgot to mention earlier. I had a really good year and in the summer holidays I went to Spain for a week and it was beautiful. The sun was out, the sand was hot and the waves were big and I made some friends.

Now I'm in P7 with a great teacher and have had him until the time of writing. We will make our confirmation soon after and go to Manchester after.

More about the Hearts and Minds charity here:

Twitter: @handmchallenge