Autism: A communication breakthrough helps Alex change his life

ALEX Revell is learning how to be a painter and decorator, something his mother, Patricia, feared may never happen.

Alex, 17, from Tickhill, is on the autistic spectrum and struggles to communicate. He has the reading age of a 10-year-old and the handwriting skills of someone much younger.

He attends a special school and, due to his learning disabilities, his family feared that he would never be able to go into further education. But then they heard about a pioneering service at Doncaster College for the Deaf, which specialises in courses for people with communication and social problems.

Patricia says it has been a lifeline for the family.

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"I knew there was something different about Alex but like many parents of children with autism we went through various routes including thoughts that he may be deaf or had communication difficulties, before he was diagnosed as autistic when he was three years old," she said.

"Alex attended special schools in Doncaster, Rossington Hall followed by Stonehill School and I can't praise them enough.

"We have been very lucky by the provision we have in the borough for young people with special needs and Alex has been lucky in the education he has received which has helped him to develop.

"My concerns were about what would happen when Alex reached 16 as there was precious little on offer for him in terms of continuing his education."

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Being proactive, Patricia started to lobby the local council to raise the issue and try to get provision put in place for her son.

"When Alex and I found out about the courses that Doncaster College for the Deaf offer for young people on the autistic spectrum I honestly felt like all our prayers had been answered. We arranged to visit and knew instantly that this was a place geared up to meet the specific needs of autistic people."

Alex is now enjoying a course in painting and decorating and is also studying child care.

"This is so very Alex" says Patricia, "to want to learn more about such different areas, and the courses are tailor-made.

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"While he has a learning delay, Alex has very good speech and understanding, what he doesn't have is great awareness of what goes on in the world and this includes an inability to anticipate danger. He has to be reminded of basic things like looking before you cross the road.

"The pastoral care that the team offer is second to none. Thanks to the college and their way of looking after students Alex now has a thriving social life, he is in the drama club, the youth club and is off to Ireland soon on a trip arranged by the staff.

"Alex will always needs to be at home, but at least the course means that he is out during the day learning new skills and socialising with people. I hope that, with the right support, Alex will be able to get a job in the future."

Doncaster College for the Deaf is a renowned national specialist provider for the deaf and hearing impaired, which has developed a new service over the past three years to meet a local need for specialist packages for young people with communication and social difficulties.

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Alan Robinson, executive principal for Doncaster Deaf Trust said: "Our communications expertise have enabled us to develop services for young people with autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

"We have created personalised learning programmes for each young person who has been brought to the college in need of help and assistance in their learning.

"This service has developed out of a clear local need to provide a specialist service for young people on the autistic spectrum to help them to develop their communication and social skills."

The college provides a range of programmes and offers day or residential placements for students.

To contact the college and find out more please call 01302 386700 or visit

This week is Deaf Awareness Week, visit