It’s not often when I’m scrolling through social media for news stories that I see something that peaks my interest. Last week, however, while in the depths of the Facebook group Herne Bay Chatter I came across the heart-warming story of Lee and his son George’s night walk to raise money for the National Autistic Society (NAS). Inspired by the help and support from the NAS, Lee has given his family since the recent diagnosis of his youngest son Alfie. Part of what the NAS aims to do is spread awareness of autism “until everyone understands”.
At 9 pm on the March 17th, Lee and his eldest son George will be taking part in a 15km night walk across London. The walk takes places starting and finishing at the London nautical school. Lee has already managed to triple his original aim of raising £100 for the society with just under a week remaining before the event.
Lee and his wife Sharon (both 38) live in Essex and have three children: George (14), Alfie (4) and Amelia (2). Lee works as a railway worker and Sharon is a full-time housewife.
Lee and Sharon's Story
I messaged Lee about his walk and within a few days received an e-mail from Sharon detailing their story. “It can be quite lonely at times, people tend to stay away because they don’t know how to be around us,” she told me.
The couple began to notice a few signs early on with Alfie at around 14 months. He enjoyed spinning, shaking his head and it was sometimes hard to get his attention. Alfie was a happy and smiling baby so the couple weren't worried.
Just before Alfie’s second birthday, Sharon began to notice changes in him. He began to make noises rather than speak and it was almost impossible to get his attention at all. “It was like he slipped into his own world and I had no idea how to get through to him,” she told me.
Sharon began to research online what Alfie had been doing and found a YouTube video detailing a boy with autism who showed a lot of similarities to Alfie’s behaviour. This was followed by a phone call to a local health visitor who they saw a few days later.
However, it wasn’t for another two years that Alfie received his diagnosis. During those two years, he was seeing at least two people a week for meetings with health visitors, speech therapists, hearing checks and eyesight checks all on top of countless phone calls and letters.
Whenever Sharon needed support the NAS were always there for her to turn to and talk to. After a while, she discovered a local group NAS Thurrock, set up by Nicola Walker and Sam Kahn: two fellow mothers of autistic children. The group runs activities, days out and coffee mornings, “when you have a child with special needs these things can mean the world to you,” Sharon said.
I for one was fully touched by the story of this family trying to provide the best for their son and was delighted to get the chance to talk with them about their story. If you want to give any money to Lee and his son George’s walk please follow this link to their JustGiving page.