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Family has hope for Tilly

Courtesy of Te Awamutu Courier

The Beckett Family By Dean Taylor

Three-and-a-half years ago Fiona and Paul Beckett’s world was shattered when they discovered daughter Tilly was autistic.

Now for the first time they have hope they can be a ‘normal’ family, but it requires hard work and a financial commitment that they cannot manage alone.

The Beckett’s sharemilk at Wharepapa South, having emigrated here from England five-and-a-half years ago to start a new life.

With daughter Sophie and baby Tilly in tow, the couple settled first into a management job in Pukeatua, and are now into their third season sharemilking 175 cows as they work towards their farm ownership goal.

Not unusually Tilly’s autism manifested itself when she was a toddler.

It is sometimes known as the invisible handicap, because there are no physical signs of any disorder. It can result in challenges in language, communication, emotion, cognition, behaviour, motor skills and social interaction. People with autism may engage in repetitive activities, stereotypes movements, resistance to changes in the environment or daily routines and have difficulty with social or verbal interaction.

The Becketts found with Tilly she engaged in a lot of repetitive actions, and was not able to communicate any emotions or feeling. She could not even tell or show her parents when she was feeling unwell or had hurt herself.

Tilly attends Patricia Avenue School in Hamilton, making the one hour each way journey by taxi.

Traditionally the family had been told to distract her, or force her to stop those actions. They were not seeing any improvement in Tilly’s behaviour and for the past two years had lost hope for their youngest daughter.

Then almost by accident, or fate, a set of coincidences led them to the Son-Rise Programme which has restored hope for Paul, Fiona and eldest daughter Sophie (9) that they can help six-year-old Tilly.

Firstly Mrs Beckett’s sister in the UK saw a television interview with an autistic man whose parents had decided to teach him how to bring himself out of autism. Those parents were founders of the American based Son-Rise Programme.

Next members of the Bruce Springstein Fan Club, which Mr Beckett belongs to, sent him a brochure on the programme.
Mr Beckett says members often communicated, and these Americans knew he had an autistic daughter and when they heard of the programme decided to help.

At first the Becketts were sceptical, but decided to try some of the self help techniques.

“The programme described itself as going over a bridge into ‘the world of autism’ and slowly bringing the autistic person back,” says Mr Beckett. “We tried doing that with Tilly, and she responded. “That was all the encouragement we needed.”

While there are no guarantees of success, there is hope.

The Becketts booked a flight to Los Angeles for Mrs Beckett to attend the course in Massachusetts in November.

Mr Beckett’s fan club friends have donated all the internal American flights.

Mrs Beckett will take part in the one week Start Up Programme then return home to put it into practise. About six months later Mr Beckett will attend the Maximum Impact Advanced Training.

All going well the couple will return a third time, with Tilly, for an intensive final course.

The couple know they will not be able to administer the programme themselves, nor can they afford the travel. They also require a special room to run the intensive one-on-one programme, as it needs to be administered in a special place, free
of other distractions and where the adult can control the situation.

The Becketts have looked at the possibility of a large playhouse or outside room which could be insulated, lined and made comfortable and secure, but will also have to fundraise for that.

Fundraising is underway thanks to friends in the farming community. A dinner and auction is being held at ‘Out in the Styx’ at Pukeatua on Wednesday, November 10. Many local businesses have donated fantastic items to be auctioned, plus friends have donated such things as sporting memorabilia, goods and services. Bookings are being taken at the restaurant (0800 461 559).

Donations to Tilly’s cause can also be made to Tilly Son-Rise at any National Bank branch.

The Becketts also need people to help administer the programme with Tilly. They have been told they would not be able to keep up the intensity of the programme without help, so are hoping to hear from anyone who could volunteer as little as an
hour every week to help them. Mrs Beckett would train any volunteers in the correct procedure, and because the family live
at Wharepapa South, Mr Beckett says they would be in a position to help with travel costs.

They say their ultimate goal if the programme proves successful for Tilly, would be to bring it to New Zealand. At present they do not think anyone else from here has tried the programme, but they believe families offered hope as they have been would like the opportunity to try it for themselves.

The Becketts know they have two or three years of struggle ahead of them, but believe that ultimately Tilly and they will have a better chance of normal, family life as a result.

To contact the Becketts with any offers of assistance please phone 872 2499. See www.autismnz.org.nz and www.son-rise.org for further information.

Update 9th November 2004

The Beckett family is overwhelmed by the response from the public to their fundraising efforts to assist their autistic daughter Tilly.

Tomorrow night’s dinner and auction is fully subscribed, more items have been donated for auction and several people have volunteered time to assist with the Son Rise Programme implementation.

Valuable auction items which do not reach their reserve will be sold by tender through the Courier.

Donations to Tilly’s cause can also be made to Tilly Son-Rise at any National Bank branch.