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28 October 2014
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Baby Jacob

Jacob did not interact even as a baby.

Jacob's story

Jacob was born with Autism. At three-years-old he couldn’t speak and was constantly screaming. His parents struggled to get a diagnosis and help - so they did it themselves - relentlessly fund raising and running an intensive learning programme.

Autism fact file

Over 500,000 people have classic Autism or Autistic tendencies in Britain.

Autism affects social and communication skills. Conditions vary from very mild to severe.

The causes are unclear - it's thought that Autism occurs when a small number of genes interact in a specific way, possibly linked to some external event or factor.

Onset is generally before three years. It affects four times as many boys as girls.

The main symptoms are problems with social interaction and relating to others including difficulty understanding gestures, body language, facial expressions and tone of voice.

Other symptoms:

- repetitive behaviour
- obsessive behaviour
- poor co-ordination
- lack of normal facial expression and body language
- lack of eye contact
- difficulty with imaginative play

People with Autism often have learning disabilities.

Seizures affect between 15 and 30 per cent of those with Autism.

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates and relates to people around them.

Children and adults with Autism have difficulties with everyday social interaction.

Their ability to develop friendships is generally limited as is their capacity to understand other people's emotional expression.

Not all cases are obvious - some sufferers will have found strategies that help them overcome the condition - or at least live with it.

However, Autism undeniably impacts the majority of sufferers - only 6% of all people with an autistic spectrum disorder have full-time paid employment.

They often want to make friends but sadly they can't.

In fact, children with Autism and Asperger's syndrome are on average 20 times more likely to be excluded from school than their peers.

According to the National Autistic Society, the condition affects ½ million people in the UK - that's roughly one in 100 people.

Read more about Autism and support for families:

Find out about local support for Autism through IPSEA:

Jacob's story

Inside Out tells the story of parents Claire and David - and their autistic five-year-old son Jacob.

Jacob's parents

Jacob's parents David and Claire.

When Jacob was born his parents had no idea about the frustration, helplessness and financial hardship to follow.

They noticed Jacob was different fairly early on when he didn't mind being left alone and didn't form a great attachment to his parents.

They began to suspect Jacob was autistic.

When he was nearly three-years-old he was still unable to talk - and, after a long battle with local authorities, a formal assessment was granted.

Such delays in diagnosis are not uncommon - 40% of children wait at least three years for a clear diagnosis.

However, research shows that early diagnosis is crucial - the earlier the coping strategies are employed, the more effective they can be.

Early treatment can also save a great deal of money in the long run since it can help prevent more costly treatment programmes needed in later life once habits have set in.

Intensive learning

Once the assessment was completed, the doctors could confirm what Claire and David had feared - Jacob was autistic.

Jacob receiving treatment

Jacob - intensive learning therapy.

They decided to act quickly and enrolled Jacob on a self-funded intensive learning programme called 'Applied Behavioural Analysis' (A.B.A).

Maggie Anderson, from Autism Learning and Development Ltd, who ran Jacob's learning programme, explains that there is no cure for Autism.

However, A.B.A can give autistic children the skills their peers have by teaching them everything step by step - effectively teaching them to "learn how to learn".

A.B.A consultants use reinforcements to guide the child's behaviour.

Therefore, rewards are given for correct behaviour, whilst negative behaviour is ignored or re-directed.

The programme begins on a one-to-one basis, in a distraction free environment, and over time distracters will be added to the learning environment to create a more realistic setting.

This allows the child to slowly adapt behaviour to fit into normal life conditions such as the classroom and community.

Jacob playing

Jacob is making good progress.

A.B.A. intervention focuses on teaching basic initiative and self-help skills, and then builds on those skills to teach communication, play, academic skills and social skills.

A life transformed

Jacob's behaviour has been transformed by the A.B.A. programme.

Claire remembers Jacob's terrible tantrums - they used to be a daily occurrence, but she insists that he is now a completely different child.

The programme has to run seven days a week, 50 weeks a year and costs a lot of money and involves a great deal of investment in time.

Jacob's family have had to fight for every inch of funding for his treatment, but this film shows that their persistence has paid off.

The family have not been deterred by their struggle, but driven by their eventual successes.

Help at hand

Stories like those of Jacob's family are familiar to organisations who provide support for families with autistic children.

However, there is a range of help on hand...

For free legal advice for parents with special needs children please contact IPSEA - a Suffolk based organisation.

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We look back at the golden age of Fizzies.

last updated: 13/11/07

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