Education

Tomy Ellis keeps his goal of starting school this year

By Madeleine Caccianiga

Tomy Ellis, 4, will start school this year as planned after being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and global developmental delay aged two.

Diagnosed as an allergy sufferer at six weeks old, Violet Town’s Paige Bannan said it was not until Tomy went to day care she sought a second opinion.

‘‘We went to a paediatrician and it was all pretty fast from there; they said he was a pretty clean-cut case for autism,’’ the mother-of-two said.

Tomy’s condition meant all areas of development would be delayed.

‘‘He started to speak a bit late, it wasn’t too concerning — he was about 1 — but then after he started to say his first few words he actually went backwards and stopped speaking altogether,’’ Ms Bannan said.

She said the big ‘‘red flag’’ was when Tomy could not cope socially with other children.

‘‘He had no emotional regularity — he could not communicate at all, so by the time he was about 2 he knew what he wanted to achieve and he couldn’t physically do it and then with his verbal delay he couldn’t tell you what he wanted and it became really frustrating for him,’’ Ms Bannan said.

Having a lot of trouble integrating into day care, Ms Bannan said Tomy was stuck inside himself for a while.

After they contacted Scope for extra help, Tomy learned to speak again at age three.

‘‘We saw an occupational therapist and she came around to our house regularly and worked with him and in that time he started to talk again ... and then the middle of last year he started to speak more spontaneously,’’ she said.

Ms Bannan said sending Tomy to Verney Road School’s early education program helped keep her goal of him starting school at the normal age.

‘‘I sent him to Verney Road and he couldn’t walk up steps, he couldn’t get in the car and he couldn’t hold on to a spoon, he couldn’t open anything. They just one by one ticked off our goals and showed him what to do.’’

Still planning on enrolling Tomy into mainstream school, Ms Bannan said he had a bit more to learn before he could start.

‘‘He’ll hopefully next year go into repeat Prep and then the goal is to get him into a mainstream school when that opportunity arises,’’ she said.

Verney Road foundation teacher Donna Allen said it was lovely to become part of a child’s family.

‘‘To watch them grow socially and academically after trying new experiences and activities — I am really excited about starting a new school year,’’ Ms Allen said.

She said one of the best parts of being a teacher was learning about the children’s likes and dislikes.

‘‘We get to be part of so many wow moments and celebrate their achievements.’’