In 1995 the members of the Robson & Jerome Fan Club will remember the heart-rendering story of Ben Simpson. Jerome helped raise the money to send Ben, a 3 year old autistic boy, to a special school in America.
Jerome decided to help the best way he could by trying to persuade the nation to recycle aluminium cans. He appeared on the TV programme ‘Schofield’s Quest’ with Ben’s Mother Julie and explained that £40 million of cans are thrown away each year. A national campaign to have them recycled would not only raise the necessary money for Ben but save a valuable resource. Julie said: “The response from the public was so fantastic that we were able to consider building a special school for autistic children in England. I can’t thank Jerome enough for his support. He is more than a great singer, actor and friend….he’s a super trooper.”
“If he could, I know my son Ben would say “Thank you, Jerome!’ so loudly that everyone in Britain would stop and listen. But Ben who is only 3 years old is autistic and can’t speak, and so, on his behalf, “Thank you a thousand times Jerome for helping Ben’s appeal.” “We have made the heartbreaking decision to send Ben to the Boston Higashi school in America where they have achieved remarkable results with autistic children. It will cost £110,000 and we decided to organize a national campaign to recycle aluminium cans to raise money and also to highlight how we waste a valuable resource like aluminium.”
“We asked Jerome to back us and he agreed immediately. We had some publicity pictures taken and he worked really hard to understand Ben and the world he lives in. Jerome also gave us 2 tickets to Top Of The Pops to raffle and agreed to meet the winners with Robson. We raised £4,500 and the winners had a great day.”
“Cans, donations and letters of support poured in from Robson & Jerome fans all over the country and we want to say thank you so much for your kindness. Indeed we feel that there is every chance that Ben will one day be able to say thank you himself. He has made incredible progress since he enrolled at Higashi in January 1996.”
“He has learned how to play drums in rhythm with music, operate on a click and drag programme, arrange fussy felt letters from A to I and sing the last part of ‘Old MacDonald’…..
……When he came home for his Easter holidays we were amazed at the difference in him. Our little boy who had been locked into a world of his own, ignoring his brothers and sisters, was participating in family activities. He got up and dressed himself in the morning. He no longer needs to wear nappies. To us his progress is nothing short of miraculous!”
“There is still a long way to go and Ben will need to be at school for another 18 months at least. But the first vital steps on his long journey towards independence have been taken. We can’t thank you enough!”
Visitors to the Jerome Flynn Web Site have asked how Ben is getting on. We contacted Ben’s parents, Julie and Paul, who have very kindly sent us this letter.
Ben Simpson Update
Ben completed his two years at the school in America and then came home. He was a different boy, no longer did the outside world seem hostile to him (he used to be physically sick in a crowded room) he had a rhythm of life and settled down into being a family member quickly. Whilst the future would always have its difficulties, we felt a renewed sense of optimism about his future. He has been educated from home ever since. Ben does attend a local school for two days a week though to ensure social integration, the other kids just love him. He is a happy and lively boy and is enjoying his childhood and despite all the odds has started to speak.
The prognosis for Ben back in 1995 was grim, his autism was so severe that it affected every part of his development. The provision for children like Ben varies dramatically up and down the country and unfortunately our area was very poorly served. I looked at the fate of children like Ben and followed their progress, spending many hours with the parents, just finding out what was in store for us and Ben. It looked a fairly well trodden path that Ben would attend a severe learning difficulties school until such a time as we could no longer handle him at home and then he would go to a specialist residential school locally. I visited the residential school and to my horror found children like Ben on medication as young as seven. I must add at this point that the school has recently been closed down by the government as it was failing the children in many ways.
I went into a state of shock for many months, this was not something I could do to Ben but I didn’t know what else to do. I could not buy what was needed in this country but I could in America. I had read about a marvelous school in Boston Massachusetts called Higashi, that had a wonderful reputation and educated the children in an holistic way. The more I read the more I knew it would suit Ben. The only problem was that it was about £50,000.00 per year plus air fares. It seemed like a dream to be able to send Ben there, we were only a normal family and that kind of money was out of our reach.
It was a concert featuring Little Richard that it struck me, he is quite a performer and has a strong faith and this seemed to affect me. I would just have to fundraise and get about £100,000.00 over the coming year, it sounds OK when you say it quickly. This we did (I still can’t believe it) and in our pursuits we were lucky enough to meet people the calibre of Jerome who use their fame wisely and also the fans who supported him, they were just a thoroughly decent bunch. In highlighting Ben’s case not only did we raise money for Ben but we brought attention to the lack of provision here. A school that replicates the Higashi methodology has recently been opened in this country. I can’t help but think that we all had a small part in that.
Cherie Booth picked up Ben’s case and we went to the High Court with her, the whole process takes so long though, the good thing is whilst all this was going on Ben was being educated appropriately at an early age when he needed it most.
We can’t thank Jerome or all of you enough and I am delighted to say that Ben can now say Thank you. I never thought I would ever hear his voice, it is such a lovely sound.
Ben still has many mountains to climb but now he has the knowledge that, he has come so far and can continue with the confidence that the journey has given him.
From the bottom of my heart, “THANK YOU.”
Julie and Paul Simpson.
We would just like to say that we are very grateful to Julie and Paul for sharing their special story with us and we would like to wish Ben all the very best for the future.