Fundraise on the First: Autistic youngster, seven, ‘happy and confident’ thanks to First Step

PUBLISHED: 09:00 23 February 2015

Charlie Hood, seven, with the piano in First Step's music therapy room

Charlie Hood, seven, with the piano in First Step's music therapy room


When Charlie Hood plays the piano, his mum Caroline is filled with an immense pride at how far he has come.

Caroline Hood and her son Charlie, seven. Picture: Ted BlackbrowCaroline Hood and her son Charlie, seven. Picture: Ted Blackbrow

For when the youngster was aged two, he was diagnosed with high-functioning autism; unable to speak or interact.

But thanks to the support of First Step, and activities such as music therapy sessions, Charlie has flourished and now attends a mainstream school.

Caroline, 45, who lives in Hornchurch, said: “Charlie was a typical baby. He didn’t cry a lot, but he met his milestones and at about 13 months he spoke.

“But, at 15 months, we saw a change – he stopped speaking and interacting and lost eye contact and communication.

“He got stressed and upset at noises and we didn’t realise he was having mild fits, where he would completely zone out.”

Charlie, born in July 2007, was diagnosed in October 2009.

The confirmation left his family with mixed feelings.

“We were devastated, because a child never ‘recovers’ from autism – there’s no cure.

“As a parent you fear the worst; we worried that Charlie would never speak and never be able to lead a normal life.

“But in some ways we knew there was something wrong and it was a relief that someone acknowledged it.”

Children with high-functioning autism, which is sometimes compared to Asperger syndrome, are typically of average or high intelligence, but may struggle with social skills.

Charlie, now seven, began attending First Step, in Tangmere Crescent, Hornchurch, in January 2010.

For a year he took part in PACC (promoting attention, communication and cooperation) sessions, as well as music therapy.

Caroline said: “It wasn’t like going to the doctors, it felt like a real homely environment.

“Even Charlie felt at ease.

“We felt we were in a place where people understood – if he got stressed, Charlie would hide in the corner and cover his ears, but people didn’t get that.

“His communication began to come back and music was where he really came through; he was totally obsessed.

“He would clap and dance and come alive.”

Charlie was unable to speak back then, but the staff taught him sign and symbol language Makaton.

He attended for a year and is now a pupil at Branfil Primary School, in Cedar Avenue, Upminster.

Charlie is continuing his love of music through piano lessons and his family believe these have helped his writing skills by strengthening his fingers.

Caroline, who has a husband Steve and a son from her first marriage, Jack, 19, now works on First Step’s reception to help others.

She said: “We are so proud of Charlie; he’s a very happy and confident child.

“Had he not had First Step’s support so early, I believe he would never have made mainstream school.

“It has meant so much.”

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 15:00

A look back at the biggest local stories from this week 60, 40 and 20 years ago

A couple of weeks ago I was speaking to residents in a local park when a woman came running towards us, shouting that she needed a defibrillator urgently.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Farming was very different 200 years ago as Prof Ged Martin’s story of an Emerson Park landowner shows

Saturday, October 20, 2018

I’m not normally one to buy into conspiracy theories, they’re only put out there to keep us too busy to think about the real things that are going on.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Wondering what the weather has in store for us this weekend? Watch our Met Office video forecast.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

It’s unfortunate that way back in the 1960s a well-meaning gesture to honour a Battle of Britain hero, went a little awry.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Burke told police officers that he wasn’t sure if it was himself, or another man driving at the time.


Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

The next step in renewable energy could be right beneath your feet as you walk through a Romford shopping centre.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now