Lifestyle

Putting autism in the frame

  • From strength to strength: parents Zico Hewey and Bianca Glasford with their son, Z’iyceo Glasford, who is thriving after specalised autism therapy (Photograph supplied)
  • Z’iyceo Glasford (Photograph supplied)
  • Competent archer: Z’iyceo Glasford (Photograph supplied)

When her son had autism diagnosed, Bianca Glasford was told he would likely never tie his own laces, much less speak.

Z’iyceo defied the odds.

“He’s very independent, very sociable,” Ms Glasford said.

“When he was diagnosed they told me he probably wouldn’t be able to tie his laces, he’d be wearing diapers well into his teens, he probably wouldn’t speak and I should look into sign language.

“I completely disagreed. That’s what initially sent me looking away for help.

“I said, ‘I’m not using sign language, I’m not using cards. He has a voice and he’s going to use it.’”

She took the two-year-old to Canada for therapy and to learn more about how to manage his autism.

He spoke his first words during that six months.

Over the next ten years, Z’iyceo made progress that doctors said was impossible.

His mother and his father, Zico Hewey, watched carefully as he progressed from Devonshire Preschool to West Pembroke Primary to Dellwood Middle School.

He started boarding at the Vanguard School in Florida three months ago to “better meet his needs”.

Z’iyceo gets help with his speech and sees occupational therapists and physiotherapists. He also benefits from applied behavioural analysis, “one-on-one intensive treatment he [gets] five hours a day”.

Ms Glasford said: “I don’t think people realise how much it would affect him if he wasn’t getting the help he’s getting. Physically you wouldn’t notice any delays with him; he just tries to keep up with his peers. We found we were trying to make him fit a programme here, whereas out there, there are programmes designed for children like him. Academic, behaviour, social — they have everything under one umbrella.”

Tuition is just shy of $50,000, a little less than what the family were spending to employ a specialist at home.

They have had to rely on bake sales and carwashes to help pay the bills. As autism is categorised as a behavioural issue rather than a medical condition in Bermuda, those affected are not eligible for insurance.

“Most of these children are getting diagnosed at Boston Children’s Hospital and Kennedy Krieger, then when you come to your insurance company, they say it’s behavioural,” Ms Glasford said.

“The cost of all of this was coming out of our pockets.”

Aside from his academic achievements, the 12-year-old is a competent archer and loves biking and skating.

“It’s impossible for one programme to meet the needs of all children on the spectrum,” his mother said.

“I don’t want to put him anywhere that feels like a babysitting service and he’s not being pushed.

“The typical things that other children learn, he can learn as well, but he just has to learn it another way.

“He’s getting As and Bs at school; he made honour roll at Dellwood and at West Pembroke.

“Knowing that he can learn, that leads me to keep pushing — even without the assistance of the insurance companies or scholarships or government.

“I’m going to make sure he becomes something.

“I don’t want him falling by the wayside because he has no education.”

Join in autism fundraiser

There is no cure for autism, a complex development disability that affects 1 in 68 children.

Rubis Energy Bermuda Ltd is offering a helping hand to affected families.

The third annual Rubis Warwick 5K Fun Run/Walk takes place on Sunday. It starts at 9am in the gas station’s Warwick parking lot. Sixty per cent of the funds raised will be earmarked for Z’iyceo Glasford, a 12-year-old on the autism spectrum. The other 40 per cent will go to Bermuda Autism Support and Education. The first Rubis Warwick 5K raised just over $12,000; the group matched that amount last year. This year’s target is $15,000.

Race entry is $10; raffle tickets are $5. Register at racedayworld.com