By way of introduction, my name is WO2 (AQMS) ‘Midge’ Midgley. I have been a member of the REME for almost 19 years now. At the young age of 16, during my first week in the Army we were all asked to donate a small percentage (one day’s pay) of our wages to The REME Charity (previously known as The REME Central Charitable Trust). Not fully understanding what this was and the assistance it provides I begrudgingly agreed.
I am currently married to Gemma and have been for 8 years, we have a 4 year old son called Heston who is the most precious thing in our world. Nearly 2 years ago we notice that Heston was developing slower in some areas such as speech and social play than his peers. This led to a number of assessments that went on for almost a year.
The results of the assessments led to a diagnosis of autism. If you have seen films such as ‘Rain Man’ or ‘The Accountant’ with Ben Affleck you may have a small insight to some of the autistic traits that are found on the spectrum. Heston is only 4 so we still do not know if he possess the ‘high functioning’ autistic traits such as counting cards at poker (Rain Man) or an exceptional eye for detail and planning for assassinations (The Accountant). What we do know is that he is 4 and still non-verbal.
Having a 4 year old that is non-verbal comes with other issues; it is extremely challenging to teach him anything and everything, including toilet training! Gemma and my biggest achievement this year to date is getting Heston to have a poo on the toilet!
Autistic children require routine with everything. The find it extremely hard to cope with change. To this end, and for me to continue in the REME, Gemma and I had to make the hard decision to go ‘unaccompanied’ and buy our own home in order to provide Heston the much needed stability and routine of not moving every two years (assignments) and to have continuity with schooling and his social circle.
Gemma has had to give up work and be Heston’s carer. Heston requires one-to-one all the time, including nursery and school when he starts in September. All this coupled with other issues I have not had time or space to mention all of this comes with a huge financial burden; with a huge amount of stress and worry. The REME Charity has been there to assist in a number of ways that Gemma, Heston and I are extremely grateful for.
There is a private company (Brain Wave) that assist in speech therapy. This comes at a cost. With our finances already stretched with Gemma being forced to give up work, buying a new home, installing a sensory room and all the other financial commitments this treatment was well out of reach. I contacted Bev at The REME Charity to seek financial assistance with the cost of this treatment, Bev and The REME Charity: Grants Committee approved my request for financial assistance and paid for the treatment. We have already had one set of therapy with the second scheduled over Easter leave. Already there is a huge difference, Heston is able to communicate basic needs in the form of a picture book (PECS). This may sound medieval and simple, but believe me when you have a 4 year old going absolutely crazy because he wants something but he can’t tell you what, this basic new found form of communication is extremely welcomed!
Gemma, Heston and I are so grateful to Bev, Colonel Phillips, The REME Charity and all of the members of the Corps for donating a small amount of their wages to The REME Charity and assisting our little boy to be able to speak. Hopefully one day he will scream ‘daddy, daddy, daddy’ when I come home from work!