Raising the awareness of The A Word

Calderdale NAS stall in Halifax town centre. From the left, Simon Gaukroger, Sarah Allard, Janine Wigmore and Louise Fletcher.
Calderdale NAS stall in Halifax town centre. From the left, Simon Gaukroger, Sarah Allard, Janine Wigmore and Louise Fletcher.

“I won’t deny that life with my son Harvey can be very challenging. He has sensory issues so is overwhelmed by certain noises,” said mum Janine Wigmore.

It means no family cinema or theatre trips for Mrs Wigmore and Harvey, and only being able to use a hairdryer or vacuum cleaner when he is out.

Eleven-year-old Harvey was diagnosed with autism aged three, but Mrs Wigmore said that his condition does not define who he is.

She said: “My son is a unique individual and I just wished that people saw beyond his behaviour when we are out and about.

“Even chatting to Harvey can be too much for him to take. Simple noises and people can make him meltdown.”

Mrs Wigmore said that the family have grown to recognise the warning signs of a meltdown with Harvey’s “Paddington Bear hard stare” which is their signal to give him some space.

“Most children love birthday parties at home – playing games, opening gifts, but for my son Harvey this milestone moment can be an ordeal – for us as well as him.”

So Mrs Wigmore has to make sure the family plans activities that Harvey enjoys such as swimming.

On one occasion Harvey was at the swimming pool having a lesson and found it too much so he ran out with the lifeguards having to run after him.

Mrs Wigmore said: “We’ve been watching the new BBC One drama The A Word, about an autistic boy.

“The opening scene where Joe (played by Max Vento) is seen wandering down a road on his own with his headphones on, no sense of danger, rang true.

“Harvey managed to escape from our house in Calderdale when he was five. Luckily one of our lovely neighbours spotted him and watched over him for us until we could get there.”

Mrs Wigmore said that caring for an autistic child can be testing on the parents’ relationship, with an estimated 80 per cent of couples splitting up.

“My husband Nick and I are determined to stay together.

“In some ways Harvey’s so lucky to be autistic in the wondrous way he sees the world, but not as lucky as Nick and I are to have such an adorable, loving, funny boy.”