A mum has made a heartbreaking appeal to find friends for her autistic son after his older brother, who also suffered from the condition, apparently took his own life.
Catherine Butters, of Lady Winter Drive, Minster, posted on Facebook seeking pals for 11-year-old Ashley, who also has ADHD.
Since it was posted on December 27, it has been “liked” and “shared” by numerous people, with Mrs Butters receiving responses in just a few hours.
The 49-year-old says she felt compelled to write the message after seeing how other kids treat Meadowfield School pupil Ashley when he attempts to make friends with them.
The mum has also experienced first-hand the tragedy that can result from the isolation felt by those living with severe learning disabilities.
In 2011, her older son Christopher Wakeman, 23, fell to his death from a flyover bridge on the A249 near Quinton – something Mrs Butters believes he intended to do after struggling with his condition.
She said: “Where I live in Minster we’ve got a park outside and quite often there’s a crowd of kids playing there.
Ashley wants to go over there and I hear the word ‘weirdo’ and them sniggering. He ends up sitting there on his own and it’s heartbreaking.
“When I posted on Facebook, I had come back from the park that afternoon and eight kids had been there and just Ashley sitting there on his own. So I came back and wrote that.
“It’s heartbreaking for a mum that no one wants to play with him.
“I’m worried about his future after what happened to Christopher – I’m worried about a world of isolation.”
Mrs Butters, who is Ashley’s full-time carer, has previously visited schools in the area after her eldest son passed away to speak candidly about autism.
She is hoping schools and colleges in the UK will increase awareness and educational lessons on the condition and other disabilities.
She added: “Because sometimes Ashley jumps and flaps around, people don’t understand – they look at him in such an awful way, like he’s a freak.
“He’s a happy little boy and luckily he doesn’t notice when people laugh at him, but it would be nice for there to be education in schools and at home so people don’t do it.”
Mrs Butters gave evidence at the inquest into her son’s death in November 2011.
Christopher Wakeman escaped from Byfield Care Home, Sheppey Way, Bobbing, after getting separated from his one-to-one support worker.
A short time later he fell from the nearby Quinton flyover bridge on the A249.
Although in June 2012 the coroner recorded a narrative verdict into Christopher’s death, Mrs Butters said she believed he intended to take his own life.
She told the hearing that despite his condition being so severe that he was unable to communicate verbally, she was able to tell how he was feeling from his eyes.
In the weeks prior to his death, she said they “didn’t have a sparkle” and they “looked quite sad”.
Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Butters added: “I suppose deep down I understand why she [coroner Patricia Harding] couldn’t give a suicide verdict, but I do believe Christopher wanted out of the autism.”