Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, spent a morning with seven year old Niall Caldwell and his parents Helen and Paul to catch a glimpse of what life is like for a child with autism.
The visit was arranged by Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for children and young people with the condition. The ‘Walk in Our Shoes 2012’ initiative is run to connect key decision makers with the families of children with autism so they can see first-hand the sort of issues they face.
During the visit, Graham was able to spend time with the family at home, before walking with Niall to Keldmarsh Primary School.
Niall’s mother Helen said “My family and I can only say what a great privilege it was to take part in ‘Walk in Our Shoes’ and have the chance to share our lives, even for this short time, with Graham and let him see what challenges we face on a daily basis.
“We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope that it has given Graham an insight which he can use when he is facing issues around autism and how it affects families. We all threw ourselves into this opportunity and attempted to treat Graham like he was a normal presence during our morning routine, inviting him to eat at our breakfast table. He was able to see how autism shapes Niall’s response to everyday stimuli and situations and the impact that has on the rest of the family.”
Graham said “You have to spend time with a family with a child with autism to begin to understand the challenges and joys of parenting someone with special needs. Having had breakfast with Niall (and been beaten at table football by him) and then walked with the family to school, I met with a group of other parents to talk about the realities of life with an autistic child. They raised a number of concerns about the implications of the government Green Paper on Special Educational Needs and their hopes for a better system of support in future. I’m grateful to the Caldwell’s for hosting me and will seek to reflect what I learnt in my work on the Education Select Committee.”