A MUM has praised staff at a nursery school for learning a form of sign language to communicate with her son.
Helen Butler’s son Callum Tomlinson, five, cannot talk, has behavioural problems and struggles to understand instructions at school.
Callum uses Makaton, a language programme using signs, symbols and speech to help people communicate. And kind staff at both his nursery, Trinity Children’s Centre in Mirfield, and his school, have learned Makaton so they can understand each other.
Helen said Callum developed normally as a baby but when he was two she realised something was not right.
She said: “He used to go to a specialist speech nursery, but they said it wasn’t for him because he had more than just speech problems.
“He does use the signs a lot and is starting to string sentences together using them. He started at school last year. It was difficult at first – like sending a 12 month old baby to school. He didn’t have a clue.”
Callum has been going to Trinity playgroup in Mirfield for more than three years and, as Helen is a student, staff pick him up from school in a taxi and take him to nursery until she is home from university.
Helen said: “They are really good with him. I would struggle without them. They take a massive weight off my shoulders and I know that when he’s there, he is safe and well looked after.”
Helen, of Heckmondwike, believes Callum is autistic, but experts haven’t been able to come up with a diagnosis.
She said: “Callum just never started talking. He had a couple of words, which he has lost now.
“We had to wait two years for the autistic spectrum disorder test. We went a few weeks ago and they said they didn’t think he was autistic.
“They did a tick list as they observed him, and if they have six characteristics or more, they class as autistic, but Callum only had four.”
Helen said doctors believed Callum had severe impairment to his language and speech development, which was delaying his overall development.
She said: “I agree, but he has a lot of characteristics that an autistic child has.
“He has really bad behavioural problems which is out of frustration because he can’t communicate.”
“The doctors said just because he wasn’t diagnosed with autism now, doesn’t mean he might not be later. But we just don’t know.”