GAYNOR CLARKE speaks to the family of a 10-year-old boy who was diagnosed with autism six months ago.
Life for 10-year-old Daniel Giles has always been at 100 miles per hour.
“We started changing how we were with Daniel. Instead of thinking he was being naughty, we thought he couldn’t help it”Mum Sally Giles
His parents, Sally and David, thought his early behavious was a reaction to the premature birth of his twin sisters, Kate and Emma, when he was four years old.
Sally, 41, said: “We thought he was doing it as a reaction to the fact his sisters had come so early. We were at the hospital as much as we could be and I think it just wasn’t normal at home. His older sister came to live with us at around the same time and he went from being an only child to having three sisters.”
Life in the family home started to calm down, but Daniel’s behaviour remained the same.
It was a suggestion from Woodlea Junior School in Leyland, where Daniel is a pupil, that led his parents deciding to take action.
Sally said: “At school it came out that he might have dyslexia. ADHD kept coming up and that’s why we went to the doctor.”
A referral was made and nearly 12 months later - in September last year - Daniel was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) .
Autism is a condition that can affect social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour, and around one in 100 people in the UK are affected.
Sally said: “At first it was a bit of a shock when they asked if we had thought about ASD.
“We hadn’t really thought about it. I had worked with adults with ASD but we had no experience of a child in mainstream education.
“But the more we looked into it, the more his behaviour was explained.
“We started changing how we were with Daniel. Instead of thinking he was being naughty, we thought he couldn’t help it.”
Being able to understand Daniel’s behaviour really made a difference.
“He has been a lot calmer,” said Sally. “Having a diagnosis helped. We told him and he could understand why he was a bit different to others.”
Daniel, of Long Close, Leyland, had a tough time before his ASD diagnosis.
Sally said: “It affects him in his social skills and his social awareness and how he is with other children.
“Children of his age have always thought he was odd or weird and for quite a bit he was bullied.
“When he was nine, he started saying he would be better off dead.
“He had counselling for that and things have got a lot better for him.”
Sally describes Daniel as “a really nice boy” who knows a lot of facts and can have an intelligent conversation.
Rather than pop groups or footballers, he loves talking about whales, remembers everything in the David Attenborough nature programmes he watches and knows how a combustion engine works.
Since being diagnosed with autism, Daniel has attended social skills groups at school and has been doing work at home to prepare him for making friends at high school.
Daniel has decided to take matters into his own hands and is also doing his bit to promote autism as part of World Autism Awareness Week.
Sally said: “I mentioned to him that it was World Autism Awareness Week and he thought it would be nice to do something. Daniel decided that he wanted to raise awareness of autism because people don’t know enough about it.”
So far he has done presentations for every year group at Woodlea and an assembly at St Andrew’s Infant School, which his sisters attend.
After Easter, he will visit other schools in Leyland for assemblies.
Sally said: “It’s going really well. He said attitudes towards him have changed since his work at his school and people are more positive to him.”
He is also raising money for the National Autistic Society and organised onesie days at both Woodlea and St Andrew’s on Friday.
Cakes sales have been held by Daniel’s Scout group, at Leyland Methodist Junior School where Sally works as a teaching assistant, at Perry’s in Preston where David works, and at Leyland Warriors.
Sally said: “I think he’s incredible.
“He was originally aiming to raise £100 and he’s already at £370 and probably looking more towards £1,000.”
And Sally thinks this could be just the start for Daniel.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did more in future because he has had such a good reaction,” she said.
To support Daniel’s fund-raising for the National Autistic Society, go to www.justgiving.com/sally-giles1 or text “CSPF81” wand the donation amount to 70070.