Faces of autism Javed Henry: The future accountant

Career & Education reporter

Sunday, April 29, 2018

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WHEN Joan Parker learnt she was pregnant, she expected a healthy, bouncing baby, and right up until her child turned two, she believed things were going as planned.

“He was born on the 27th of April 2002. He seemed to be a healthy child and the only thing was that two days after he was born he had jaundice. When I took him home everything was OK. He rolled himself and turned on his own before he was six weeks old and he walked at nine months. The only thing is that he did not speak,” she said.

Thinking his speech would develop later, Parker thought nothing of it, but when he got to two and still didn't talk, she took him to see the paediatrician who referred him to the Bustamante Hospital For Children which did a series of tests before referring her to a neurologist who sent her to do a test which was analysed overseas.

On receiving the results, Parker was informed that her son Javed Henry, now 15, had severe autism.

“I had no idea what this was. He is my first and only child. I cried and cried everyday. From there on I didn't know what to do or where to go. I was just lost. The worst part about it was when I got a letter to take to The University Hospital of the West Indies and was told to go to Ward 21. I wanted to turn back, but I went ahead. I was given an appointment to come back within four weeks. When I went it was an assessment they did for him,” she said.

“I was still crying. I didn't know what to do. I started doing research to find out what would happen to him, if he would ever talk, be like normal children.”

Eventually, Parker began feeling optimistic and got Javed into a school at age four, even though he still wasn't speaking.

“Surprisingly he went there at Rosedale Basic and did very well. Things changed. It was a church school and fortunately for him, every class he went to he had a teacher who was a Christian and they worked with him. At five years old he came home one day and said “homework”. He told us what he had and he did it. Another time he came home and said “spelling bee” and showed me a piece of paper with 50 words and he was able to spell about 30 without looking at the paper. At age five he started speaking and I knew things would change,” she said.

But when it was time for Javed to start primary school, Parker could get no school that would accept him and he ended up staying at basic school an additional year.

“I was chased out of a primary school by the grade one coordinator who told me there was no place for him there and I should find somewhere for him. I registered him in a private school even though I couldn't afford it. I went to The School of Hope and was placed on a waiting list and a week before school started I was told to come pick up a voucher. However, the morning he started I was told that he was too advanced and would have to go elsewhere, but they would keep him for a year,” she shared.

Not certain what her next move would be, Parker was introduced to a woman at her church — Clifton New Testament — who works at the Ministry of Education and who pointed her in the direction for help, which had Swallowfield Primary enrolling the young man.

“By this time he was [at the age to be] a grade three student. I asked them to put him in grade two as he had missed out a lot, and he topped the entire grade two! Realising they could get something out of him, they decided he was worth a try and one particular teacher who worked with him gave him work orally as he would not write. Javed never came lower than third in a class right up to grade six. When he sat GSAT he was placed at Meadowbrook High, his second choice,” Parker said.

Currently in grade nine at Meadowbrook, Parker said she is grateful to Shelly-Ann Ebanks, the grade coordinator who has really looked out for Javed.

“She has really given an eye and from he has been there she has rallied around him, helping him to get his notes. She understands,” Parker said.

Javed, on the other hand, said he knows his grades can improve, but he needs additional help.

“I am averaging 50s and I want it to increase. I want to be a bank accountant and I love chemistry and physical education and want to do the sciences and maths as well,” he said.

He is also a member of the school's Cadet Corps and expressed that he is happy that his friends do not treat him any differently because he is autistic.

“I am also grateful to my mother, she inspires me, and her best friend Joyce Jones has always looked out for me and defended me.”

His mother, meanwhile, hopes that more teachers in the education system would try to understand the world of autistic children and not ignore their needs.

“I just want to see proper infrastructure for children — just one teacher who understands them very well and can really assist. The system needs to be more inclusive. You can't just let them be in the institution and say you're inclusive if you're not ensuring they are OK and actually getting the knowledge,” she said.

Parker added: “I am doing all I can to help him. I denied myself everything and allowed him to have the best education I can afford to give him. I have made a lot of sacrifices. I never had the opportunities but I will do my best and fight for him.”

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