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Challenging childhoods

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Brotherly love: Dante, right, lets his older brother Syncair hold his hand (Photograph supplied)

Selessia Watson is getting ready to throw her son “his first big birthday party”.

Syncair will turn 6 this month. Both he and his four-year-old brother Dante have autism spectrum disorder.

“I’ve always said when he understands it’s his birthday, I’ll throw him a big party,” Mrs Watson said.

“Right now, he is in an obsession phase. If he wants something he’ll ask repeatedly all day.

“He’s obsessed with birthday cakes right now. Before, he didn’t really know what a birthday was, but now he asks everyday.”

Syncair was three when he was diagnosed. A routine check-up at the Child Development Centre brought the first suspicions.

Before that, Mrs Watson said she would not have suspected he was on the spectrum. When he was born at only 25 weeks, she was told to expect delays.

“Because he was a preemie, they said when they’re born this early sometimes they take five years to catch up. I just would have thought it was a delay,” she said.

“I went in[to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital at] 25 weeks because I thought I was leaking fluid. They did an ultrasound, said nothing was wrong, and sent me home.

“The following day I woke up and my water had broke. I was flown to Canada. They were going to try to keep him in [me] for two weeks because every day counts at that stage. I ended up having him the same day I was flown out.”

The experience taught her to recognise the signs. By the time Dante was nine months old, she knew. The official diagnosis came in October 2014, only five months after his brother’s.

The news didn’t frighten Mrs Watson.

“When Syncair was born, I’d already been through something traumatising, so I’m just happy they’re alive and breathing.”

Although the boys have progressed, Mrs Watson is concerned for their future. When she learnt that naturopath Melanie Dupres would be conducting a study that uses homeopathy to treat autism, she jumped at the chance to be involved.

“I noticed the improvements were different for each child,” she said. “From the stories that I’ve read and the research I’m hoping that they have some improvement in any area.”

She hopes the study will bring results that other avenues have not.

“On average, a child is supposed to get at least 25 hours of therapy a week. That’s usually a minimum,” she said.

Because of limited resources at the boys’ schools and at local charity Tomorrow’s Voices, Mrs Watson said they are getting far less than that, although Syncair’s teacher at Paget Primary School is a huge help.

“The Bermuda Health Department provides speech and occupational therapy and physical therapy for half-an-hour a week, which is really nothing compared to the 30 hours they need,” she said. “Children with autism need to learn basic skills. His teacher does a lot. She’ll take them grocery shopping and teach them how to behave in public or take them to a restaurant, stuff they need to learn.”

Mrs Watson noticed a real change when Syncair took voice lessons over the summer in Virginia where her mother lives.

“I believe in trying to teach them with what they love. It helped with his speech because he loves to sing.

“Since Syncair first got diagnosed, he wasn’t talking at all. He started gaining words around four, and ever since he did singing, his vocabulary jumped about 100 per cent,” she said.

Dante doesn’t talk at all.

“They’re two totally different children. Syncair’s very loving and likes to get to know new people and Dante likes to keep to himself and doesn’t like anyone to touch him.

“Dante is very flexible. He was holding his own bottle at three weeks. He was sitting before three months and crawling at four months. He stood up before six months. He likes climbing and doing flips.

“His teacher says he’s very easy to watch because he just stays in his corner and plays with his toys, but if you want to engage with him he throws a tantrum.”

Her job now is to teach Syncair to respect boundaries.

“He’s progressed so much, but now I’ve got to teach him not to be so loving.

That’s something I never would have thought to teach him,” Mrs Watson said. “Imagine when he’s 19 and goes up to a stranger and hugs them.”

The 28-year-old is also focused on a balanced diet for her sons.

Children are notoriously picky eaters and because they’re on the spectrum “they’re even pickier”, she said.

“Most children on the spectrum, they all love the same food, which is chicken nuggets,” she laughed.

“At one point that’s all Syncair wanted for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but he’s opened up his variety.

“I accept them the way they are, but [any improvements] will mean a lot to me. I always wonder what they’ll be like when they grow up.”

Just the two of us: Syncair, left, and Dante (Photograph supplied)
Taking it easy: Syncair (Photograph supplied)
A different perspective: Dante, 4 (Photograph supplied)
Birthday boy: Syncair, 5 (Photograph supplied)
<p>Help springs from homeopathy study</p>

Autism Spectrum Disorder is the name given to a group of developmental disorders typically characterised by a wide range of symptoms.

Children with ASD usually have difficulty communicating and interacting, show repetitive behaviour and have limited interests.

Naturopath Melanie Dupres discovered how homeopathy helped children on the spectrum abroad, and determined to do the same here.

She’s now looking for eight children to participate in a local study over the next 14 weeks.

She believes those who sign up will quickly see improvement in their speech, general development and digestion, and get a more restful sleep.

“Bermuda has a growing population of children that are diagnosed with ASD and suffer with varying degrees of symptoms on the autism spectrum,” she said.

“It is not conclusive as to what causes Autism Spectrum Disorder, although it is believed to be a neurobiological condition affecting the neurological pathways and there is no known cure.

“However, according to work done in the field of homeopathic medicine, it has been documented time and time again how homeopathic medicine used in a professional capacity can assist in improving the lives of these children.

“The main thing required is commitment in time and taking the remedies as prescribed, therefore allowing the patient to get better.”

Anyone interested in taking part should contact her at meldupres@yahoo.co.uk