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'I had no intention of giving up on my child' – George an ‘inspiration’ to parents with autistic kids

Jane Atkinson and her son George Stooks
Jane Atkinson and her son George Stooks

A SWAY mum has hailed her autistic son as a “complete inspiration” to the parents of other children with the condition who fear for their future.

Now 22, George Stooks was once “written off” by doctors who told his mum Jane Atkinson when he was just two that he would be better off in care, and that he would never be able to function in society.

She said that until he was 18 months old he was “like any other toddler” who hit all his developmental markers. But he started to show behavioural problems including continuous screaming and losing his vocabulary. Doctors eventually diagnosed severe autism.

Jane said: “He totally withdrew, going from a sociable little boy to one who was scared of his own shadow. As a mother I had no intention of giving up on my child. Doctors said he had no life ahead of him, but I set out to prove them wrong.”

She travelled to the US with George where she studied the Son-Rise Program, a form of home-based therapy which centres round motivating the child through play.

Jane went on to develop her own form of therapy called Positive Path Play Therapy which caught the eye of Oxfordshire’s special educational needs service.

They funded Jane to keep George at home for six years to continue her therapy with him.

Thanks to Jane’s intensive work, he went to primary school at the age of nine, went on to gain GCSEs, and now studies at Brockenhurst College.

Her reward has been to see George grow into a “very happy, sociable, involved young man” who is now studying to work with children.

Jane said: “George is a remarkable young man. He has overcome amazing obstacles in his life and for the parents of children I teach therapy to, he is a complete inspiration.”

George has gained a diploma in child health and social care at Brockenhurst College, qualified as a coach for Kidzcamps and recently passed his driving test at the first attempt.

Jane said: “George is a very determined young man who lets nothing hold him back. That is why he is where he is today. I cannot express in words how proud I am of him.”

Last year Jane launched the Positive Path Foundation (PPF), which helps people aged over 16 with learning difficulties and physical challenges find friends, socialise and gain life skills through events and workshops.

It has been running on a small scale observing Covid-19 restrictions.

The reason for launching, Jane said, was the complete lack of provision she found after looking for social groups and activities for George.

Jane said: “It means so much to me to know that he is gaining many friends and is able to socialise with them in a safe environment.

“I realised how important it is for George too when he said to me after an event, ‘Mum, thank you loads for setting up the charity. I am making such amazing friends and having lots of fun’.”

Even through the first lockdown, the charity ran virtual events for members three times a week, allowing them to stay in touch, chat and be part of their own community.

Recently Bashley FC donated tickets to members of PPF to attend a match against Shaftesbury.

Jane said: “Establishing Positive Path Foundation is the missing piece of George’s journey, and the icing on the cake would be for him to find a life partner.”

For more information or to make a donation visit www.positivepathfoundation.org

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