Nigel Broadfield was 6 years old when he was diagnosed with autism. The year was 1973, a time when children with autism were routinely placed in institutions, dismissed as unmanageable and untreatable. Nigel’s parents refused to accept this and in their quest to find suitable support for him, Dad Terry dedicated his life to improving services for people with autism with us. This year marks our 50th Birthday and the 36th year that Nigel has been supported by us. This is Nigel and his late Father Terry’s story.
It was 1974 and Nigel, his older Sister Debbie, his Mum Maureen and Dad Terry were living in the West Midlands. Following his diagnosis it was becoming increasingly clear that Nigel would need a specialist school to provide him with the right support and education. He was non-verbal but his parents saw huge potential in what he could achieve. At the time there were very few specialist schools in the country but one of them was Portfield School in Christchurch. Started by parents of children with autism in a garden shed in 1968, Portfield School was providing specialist education to 20 children in Stour Road, Christchurch. Feeling they had no other option if they wanted the best for Nigel, Terry and Maureen took the difficult decision to move away from family and friends to Christchurch so that he could go to Portfield School. Nigel was 7 years old and started as a weekly boarder.
During his 6 years at Portfield School, Nigel made good progress, becoming more independent and developing a real sense of humour.
By the age of 13, however, it became clear that he would need a lifetime of residential care. His parents explored residential options back in the Midlands and later in North Wales but in his teenage years it became evident that there were very few places in the country that could provide good quality care that was right for him and other young adults like him.
Terry felt strongly that this had to change. With us Terry worked tirelessly to transform residential care for adults with autism in the Wessex region. In 1988, we opened High Croft in Broadwindsor, a residential home specially designed to support 8 adults with autism. Nigel, then 21 years old, became one of our first residents.
Today, 30 years later and age 51, Nigel is still living happily in one of our residential homes. Having spent 28 years living at High Croft he moved to his current home, Higher Ground, 2 years ago. We now run 8 homes across the region, providing personalised residential care to 33 adults with autism.
Nigel’s Sister Debbie said; “Nigel lives a full and contented life. He is surrounded by people that care for him, understand his unique needs and make him feel safe. He has built strong and trusting relationships with his carers, many of whom have supported him for many years. With their support he is encouraged to make choices on a daily basis and do what he enjoys, such as going for a walk, meeting his family at Kingston Lacy and listening to the sounds of birds. It’s exactly what my Mum and Dad always wanted for him.”
Having championed the opening of High Croft residential home, Terry continued to play a central role in the development and expansion of our services as our Chairman until 2000 and carried on as a Trustee up until he passed away in 2014.
Debbie continues; “My Dad felt passionately that people with autism deserve a good quality of life and the opportunity to reach their potential. I know that he was incredibly proud of what he achieved and it gave him immense satisfaction to see how happy Nigel was. As a family we know that his legacy lives on in the work that Autism Wessex does every day.”
Siún Cranny, our CEO, said; “Terry was a remarkable man whose dogged determination to improve Nigel’s life and the lives of and other children and adults with autism has had a lasting impact on the work we do at Autism Wessex today. Looking back over the past 50 years, we are incredibly proud of what we have achieved. From opening one of the very first specialist schools in the country and paving the way in adult residential care, to providing support in the community and running an Autism Advice Service, we have continued to push the boundaries. As we celebrate our 50th Birthday we want to say a huge thank you to Terry and to everyone that has played a part in our journey. Like Nigel and his family we hope as many people as possible will join us at our Family Fun Day on 25th August at Portfield School to make it an extra special celebration!”
Our 50th Birthday Family Fun Day is on Saturday 25th August at Portfield School in Christchurch. Starting at 2.30pm there will be an afternoon of food, drink, entertainment and games. The event is kindly sponsored by Williams Thompson Solicitors LLP.
To book tickets for the Family Fun Day click here Tickets