LYNDEN Bradfield is ten. He has no friends and, save for a few words, cannot talk.
He is a bright, intelligent and happy child, but faces challenges every day because of a particularly severe form of autism.
There are varying degrees of the condition, which affects development and the way in which those with it perceive and relate to the outside world and other people.
Like Lynden. many autistic people have trouble communicating and interacting with others.
The condition also means people with autism tend to lack the ability to think flexibly and adapt to their surroundings.
After World Autism Awareness Day, last Wednesday, Lynden’s mum, Amanda, 42, from Rayleigh, said she hoped public understanding would begin to improve, She added: “Lynden is a normal- looking child who is very attractive.
“But sometimes we can be walking outside and he will be making lots of noises, so people tend to judge him, and me as a parent. They see him as a naughty child, because they don’t understand.
“As he’s got older, he’s got better at dealing with his deficiencies, but there are times when it all falls apart and he goes to pieces.
“It could be any time – when you’re driving, or walking down the high street.”
Some youngsters show the signs of autism early on, but Lynden was two-and-a-half before he was diagnosed, after his normal childhood development started slowed and went into reverse.
She said: “I noticed problems from about 20 months. He developed normally before that. In fact, his hand-eye co-ordination was amazing. He was able to hit a golf ball from about 18 months – his grandad was over the moon about that.
“Then he lost everything and regressed. Now he can’t really talk, apart from a few single words, doesn’t have friends and has difficulty dealing with noisy environments.
“Communication is a big problem for him and he can’t read or write yet, though he can deal with change quite well, something with which some autistic children have big problems.”
Lynden also tends to be hyperactive and requires a lot of stimulation, which can present his parents with even more problems.
Amanda explained: “He needs to be squeezed and massaged a lot and he is very hyperactive.
“On a sunny day, he can be out bouncing on the trampoline, but on a cold or rainy day, he can’t get out and it can be very challenging.
“As he can’t communicate with me, that can lead to him having a meltdown, out of pure frustration.”
For all this, Lynden is making progress, and technology is helping him to interact. The iPad he received for Christmas, for instance, has enabled him to construct sentences such as, “I want a drink” using pictures.
Despite the difficulty of predicting how children with autism will develop in later life, Amanda said she tried to remain hopeful.
She said: “At the moment, he wouldn’t be able to live an independent life, because he wouldn’t be able to do things like go to the shops and say what he wanted.
“There doesn’t seem to be a clear path of development and, when he was diagnosed, we were told he was unlikely ever to say much.
“But I know another child who had the same diagnosis who is now seven and, although he’s not talking much, he’s now reading out of books.
“There’s no pre-set limit to what he can achieve.”