Charity helps Sidmouth boys who ‘grew up quickly’
06:00 27 July 2014
A Sidmouth single mum has thanked a Devon charity that helps her sons lead a normal childhood as they care for their autistic brother.
David Luxon, 13, and Jamie, 10, have had to grow up remarkably quickly since five-year-old Ryan was diagnosed two years ago.
But with the backing of Devon Young Carers (DYC), the boys have coped and given invaluable help to their mum, Fiona, in dealing with the youngest’s often violent outbursts.
“Autism is very tough,” she said. “It’s been frustrating for all of us.
“Ryan gets aggressive. Day to day life is very challenging – even getting ready for school is like a military operation.
“You almost have to do a risk assessment before you try to do anything.”
Ryan’s diagnosis came after months of assessments by opticians, hearing specialists and paediatricians before a speech therapist referred him to Exeter’s Honeylands children’s centre.
“From 15 months old I started to notice he wasn’t engaging with people – he wasn’t paying attention to anything, there was no communication,” the 35-year-old said.
“I thought he was just delayed – then my eldest said ‘Why does Ryan hate us?’
“Then it wasn’t just me noticing. But I wasn’t expecting autism. I thought it couldn’t be.”
Ryan’s struggles to communicate often mean he expresses himself through violence.
She said it is ‘tough going’ for a 10-year-old not to shout out if Ryan bites him and to realise it is his way of communicating his displeasure.
The youngsters have also had to help out around the house while their mum, who had to leave her job in a care home, looks after him.
“This is full time for me,” said Fiona. “The other boys help out with the day to day running of the house, washing up, running to the shop – they have had to grow up very quickly.
“I can’t commend them enough.”
But Ryan’s starting at Mill Water School has given her a chance to look for work, albeit a job that can fit around her sons’ needs.
Since being referred to Youth Carers in 2012, Sidmouth College student David and Jamie, who is at Sidmouth Primary School, have been offered a ‘lifeline’.
“Having the support of Young Carers is certainly well deserved, it gives them a chance to get out and play,” their mum told the Herald.
“They meet other carers – it lets them know they aren’t the only ones. It gives the children a break and gives me peace of mind.”
The boys attend a youth club, get to go on days out, and will be going on holiday with their mum.
But she said there is still a lot of misunderstanding about unseen disabilities.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘If you can’t control him you shouldn’t have had him,’ or that he just needs a good smack.
“It would be nice to have more awareness of mental health issues.”
DYC supports carers aged between five and 18.
Liz McQuiston, DYC lead practitioner for East Devon, said: “In Sidmouth 49 young carers are known to our service but national research shows that 1 in 10 young people is a young carer.”
Last month she accepted £1,500 on behalf of the charity that was raised by Sidmouth’s line dancing club and various other events.
She said it would provide eight young carers with a weekend residential and 30 young carers with a day trip.
To find out what DYC offers or to make a referral, call 08456 434 435.