The team at The Forum School have been working closely with Jo, mother of Myles, one of their residential students and here she talks about their journey.
My son, Myles, has diagnoses of Autism and severe intellectual disabilities, ADHD and Epilepsy. He was diagnosed with Autism when he was two years old. Further to this, the Psychiatrist at The Forum School diagnosed Myles with associated conditions when he was around 16 years old.
Myles has attended The Forum School for nine years. Initially I educated him at home for five years, after which he attended a special education day school. I never imagined Myles wouldn't live at home with me until I began to see, first hand, how generic Special Education between 9am and 3pm couldn't possibly meet his complex needs.
When I realised Myles needed to attend a boarding school specifically for the needs of those with ASD, I did my own research and came across The Forum School. It took me much longer than Myles to adjust to him living away from home, however, after time, I realised that he was settled and benefited from being in a more structured environment.
When Myles commenced his Forum School journey he was incontinent and his diet was extremely limited. He would only eat toast, biscuits and particular brand of microwave chips, and had very little functional communication. Myles' sleep difficulties, incontinence and behaviour meant that I struggled to meet his needs at home. Looking back, I wonder how I managed for as long as I did. We had become isolated and felt trapped within our home.
Myles is now coming to the end of his Forum School journey. They supported him to be continent and use the toilet independently during the day, within six months of Myles starting his residential placement. Now Myles eats a varied diet, has learned to use cutlery and can participate in a wide range of activities, in fact, he is eating out at restaurants, visiting the cinema and helping with the shopping at the supermarket.
Myles has been supported in learning skills for life such as getting dressed, cooking meals and brushing his teeth. He has also developed interests such as using a computer, horse riding and cycling.
Myles can now use a tablet to communicate effectively with to others, which is something that many take for granted. Myles' tablet also supports him in developing his speech; the day I heard my son first use the sentence, 'I want milk please, Mummy', I was filled with pride and wanted to jump for joy. In fact, every time I hear his voice I feel proud of all that he has achieved despite his challenges.
All those that work at The Forum School are caring, dedicated and genuine. They have provided specialist, consistent waking day education and care. They have worked alongside me, always keeping Myles' best interests at heart.
The Forum School is helping Myles access the community as well as our family life. With becoming an adult, Myles will have to move on to adult services. I was very concerned with how Myles was going to manage this huge change but this transition has been eased by the opportunity Myles has had to move to one of the satellite homes based in the community.
Myles is now preparing for adult life. He will always have need for significant levels of support, care and therapeutic input, however, The Forum School have helped him develop skills to allow him to live as independently as possible. My aspirations for Myles are that he continues to develop his independence, expand his communication and live a meaningful life participating in the community.
What advice would you give to other parent with a child who is autistic?
"As a parent of an autistic child you think that you are the only person that understands you child and what they need - you aren't. The Forum School proved this and my son quickly started to benefit from the specialist intervention and support they provided."
What advice would you give to other parents who are trying to find a placement for their child?
"Keep searching until you find something worth fighting for."
Three words to describe The Forum School?
"Caring, dedicated and genuine"