The Snowdrop has traditionally been a symbol of hope through adversity. Despite the difficulties arrayed against it, this flower forces it’s way through the frozen ground to flower. A good metaphor for our children – a situation many of us are familiar with!
Hello, my name is Andrew Brereton and I was the father of a child who suffered with profound brain injuries. These injuries caused a mixture of symptoms….some of quadriplegic cerebral palsy and some of autism. Although, neither of those diagnoses do justice to the true nature and severity of his brain injuries! Unfortunately, Daniel passed away six years ago, suffering a series of brainstem strokes. We always knew that for someone with his level of disability, the length of his life would be severely limited. But, unfortunately, knowing that something is going to hurt doesn’t actually stop it from hurting when it actually happens.
Daniel was born at the North Staffordshire Maternity Hospital in Stoke –On – Trent on 4, September, 1987. Within a few short weeks, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. We were warned by the pediatrician that the fact he was able to make such an early diagnosis indicated a high degree of severity of the condition. He was not wrong, and within a few weeks it became clear that I would be forced to give up my work as a chemist in the ceramics industry, in order to help my wife, Janet, look after him. Daniel rarely slept. He could stay awake for days and nights on end. This was an impossible situation for my wife to deal with alone and soon she was struggling to cope whilst I went out to work.
Although, in the early months of Daniel’s life, I was largely at home, I became increasingly interested in Daniel’s problems and in the human cognitive processes. I decided, therefore, to enroll for a university degree in psychology / child development at our local college of higher education which is part of Manchester Metropolitan University. The structure of my chosen courses meant that I only had to be on campus part of the time, so I was still largely available to help with Daniel’s care. Three years later, I passed my degree with upper second class honours. My final dissertation being on the subject of ‘Programmes of rehabilitation and their effects upon brain – injured children and their families.’
The three years of my degree studies paid off in more than one way. Not only did they foster in me a greater understanding of the difficulties Daniel faced, they also highlighted some useful techniques which we could employ in treating some of those difficulties. Some of these techniques really had an impact upon his quality of life. My success in my studies also further fueled my interest in this field. As a result, I enrolled in further courses, eventually gaining post graduate qualifications in ‘child development,’ ‘language and communication impairments in children,’ and ultimately an MSc in Cognitive Neuropsychology. I was also fortunate to be involved in several research projects: the construction of neural networks to mimic cognitive processes in children, the design and employment of socio-cultural learning programs with children who experience learning difficulties and the design and employment of various communication therapies for children who experience language and communication difficulties.
My studies at university also opened our eyes to alternative therapeutic interventions which were available and consequently, over time, we not only travelled the globe to seek help for Daniel’s difficulties from these approaches, but I was given the opportunity to study at various clinics. We studied and employed alternatives at clinics in the UK and internationally. Some of these approaches we found useful and productive, others we did not. In fact, more accurately, I would say we found some techniques within most approaches to be beneficial, whilst finding many other techniques within each approach to be of no benefit. We also found the intensive philosophy of some alternatives to be detrimental to Daniel and to us as a family. I guess what I am saying is that there is an element of truth in all approaches, but no one approach has a monopoly on the facts!
Although, throughout his lifetime, Daniel remained very severely handicapped, our efforts at helping him were far from fruitless. At birth, Daniel was cortically blind and deaf. This meant that although his eyes and ears were working normally, his brain was not interpreting the sensory information which it was collecting. However, gradually through our utilization of alternative methodologies, we restored both his vision and his hearing. This may sound “small beer” in the global picture of overwhelming global handicap, but for Daniel it meant that he could now see his Mum and Dad. It also meant that he could see, hear and begin to interact with his two younger brothers. This revolutionized Daniel’s whole being.
Sadly, Daniel passed away six years ago next month. We miss him terribly and there will always be a massive hole in our lives. How do you get over the death of a child? However, the snowball of enthusiasm and interest which he created in me, interest in helping to solve the problems many children face, rolls on.
Using all of the knowledge that my son passed to me, (despite all my qualifications and research experience he remains my most astute tutor), I have set up a child development consultancy called ‘Snowdrop.’ It is in its infancy, but, it aims to take all the knowledge and experience amassed over the years and to utilize it for the benefit of children and families like ourselves. Snowdrop provides programs of neuro-cognitive stimulation for children who suffer developmental problems. Those problems may express themselves as more global difficulties such as Cerebral Palsy or Autism, or more specific difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, or specific language impairment. Treatment is carried out by the family in the child’s own home. Our ‘programs’ are variable in their intensity, depending upon the particular problems displayed by the child and are designed to fit in with what the family can practicably achieve without placing them under an undue burden of stress. We place a strong emphasis on learning through play. We believe that the best environment for development to have a chance of taking place is one where both child and family are happily motivated and jointly focused on the same objectives.
Although Snowdrop is based in the UK, we are already having a huge appeal internationally. We are a ‘not for profit’ organization. All we want to do is to be of service to children and their families. In this way, my son’s life and everything he taught me about brain injury and the developmental problems children face will have not been wasted. The founding of Snowdrop also proves something else. – Love surpasses death.
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