Dom Randell-Snow was just 3 years old when he was diagnosed with autism in 1998. At his toddler group some of the parents thought that autism was a disease you could catch, like Leprosy, leaving Dom and his family feeling excluded and isolated. As a young child he was reclusive and non verbal but after 20 years of dedicated care with us, Dom is a happy, confident 23 year old man.
On 25th August he stood in front of a big crowd at our 50th Birthday Event and signed and talked about his experience. This is Dom’s story.
It was soon after Dom turned 2 years old that his parents, Dan and Tracy, noticed that he seemed withdrawn. When there was no change after several weeks, they took him to see the Health Visitor. Dom was immediately referred to specialists who diagnosed him with autism and associated learning difficulties.
Dad Dan explains how he and Tracy felt after Dom’s diagnosis; “Having a child diagnosed with autism changes your life. In a way, you grieve for what could have been. We realised that Dom may never have his own family but our hope was that he would live a happy and settled life. Most of all we wanted to know that he would be looked after when we were no longer here."
Shortly after his diagnosis, at the age of 3 ½ years old, Dom started as a pupil at our specialist school, Portfield School. There he made excellent progress, developing essential communication skills and becoming more independent.
Dan continues; “We’d been told that if Dom wasn’t verbal by the age of 8 that he would never speak, yet at the age of 13 he started to use words! This was an incredible moment for us and for Dom and was a credit to the hard work and dedication of the School staff. Today, Dom is happy to communicate with anyone using a combination of signing and words.”
At the age of 16 Dom left Portfield School to join Lifeskills College in Christchurch, our post 16 provision. Three years later he graduated in front of his proud parents and in October 2014, as a young adult, he moved into a residential home run by the charity, Greenways.
4 years on this is where he lives happily today, enjoying weekly swimming trips with his friend Fraser, going bowling and playing crazy golf. Dom also now has a paid job delivering the Highcliffe Eye once a month.
Dan says; “It’s been amazing to see the transformation in Dom as he has grown up. He’s gone from a non verbal, frustrated and reclusive child to a happy, chatty and affectionate young man. As a family we feel immensely grateful to the staff at Autism Wessex who have supported Dom every step of the way. The charity has played a major role in Dom’s life and continues to do so today. I am so incredibly proud of everything that Dom has achieved and for him to stand up in front of over a hundred people to sign about his experiences with the charity at their 50th Birthday Event is just fantastic.”
It was a day that Dom’s Mum Tracy would have loved to have seen. After Dom’s diagnosis Tracy dedicated her life to ensuring that he, and other children like him, had access to the right education and support. Starting as a volunteer at Portfield School when Dom joined, she became a Parent Governor and later the Chair. In December 2004 she became one of our Trustees. Tracy remained as the Chair and a Trustee until she passed away in October 2017. She leaves a lasting legacy, which includes setting up a Parent Support Group for parents of children with autism to meet and access support. The Support Group still meets once a month at Portfield School.
Siún Cranny, CEO of Autism Wessex, says; “Firstly, I’d like to say a huge congratulations to Dom for his fantastic speech at our 50th Birthday Event. It took a lot of courage to stand up in front of so many people and he should be incredibly proud of himself. Dom’s story shows how important it is for children and young adults with autism to have access to the right support and services at every stage of their development. We are proud to have supported him for the past 20 years and look forward to continuing to support him throughout adulthood.”
Siún continues; “Dom’s Mum Tracy was a remarkable woman whose contribution to Portfield School and the charity as a whole was immeasurable. Her legacy lives on in the work we do supporting children and adults with autism every day. As we celebrate our 50th Birthday this year we want to say a huge thank you to Tracy and to everyone that has played a part in our journey.”
For more information on how you can still get involved in celebrating our 50th Birthday click here