AN ACTRESS whose young son suffers from autism has spoken of her joy and amazement at his dramatic improvement following a unique form of treatment.
Helene Wilson, of Warwick Road, Alkrington, said her life and those of her husband Nigel and three-year-old boy Theo have been completely turned around after less than four months of the Son-Rise programme.
Helene, 38, said that before the treatment her son was withdrawn and disconnected, socially-awkward, could not be toilet trained, he would never maintain eye contact with his parents and would cry when people came to visit their house, including his grand parents.
But now little Theo has changed into a sociable, playful child who is curious about learning the names of new people he meets, is desperate to show off his toys and loves being read to.
Helene, a Canadian-born actress who appeared with Daryl Hannah on the West End Stage in The Seven Year Itch, said: "It has been unbelievable, absolutely awesome and I want to share it with everyone.
"It has just changed our lives because our attitude towards him has changed.
"My attitude towards everything in life has changed, it's made me feel like anything is possible."
The Son-Rise programme, taught by the Autism Treatment Centre of America, helps parents to interact with their child by creating a safe environment in which he or she feels comfortable.
Helene and Nigel, a 43-year-old photographer born and bred in Alkrington, converted one of the bedrooms in their house into a play room, painted in neutral colours, with all the stimuli removed and just one shelf with Theo's favourite things.
Helene said: "It's all about one to one interaction.
"He is the boss in the play room and we just create a world where people are under his control so he feels safe.
"We just goof around and do silly things with him."
Theo also has repetitive ticks, and when he starts, his parents mimic them, to help him feel comfortable and under less pressure, so he can come out of himself. "He shows us the way in so we can show him the way out," Helene said.
She added: "It's just been incredible. His grandparents have been blown away by him.
"It was difficult for them because he would not socialise with them but now he runs to greet them when they walk through the door.
"Unbelievably, we've even been able to toilet train him, which I never thought would happen."
Helene, who will soon appear on Channel 4 in a programme about the Waco massacre in 1993, has also asked for occasional help with the treatment of Theo.
She said: "Obviously it's a lot of hard work and time-consuming, and because me and my husband both work from home, we can handle it at the moment. But if anyone out there could give us a hand, if only for a few hours, that'd be great."
If you are interested in helping Helene, you can call her on 0161 643 3346. No previous experience is necessary.
First published by the Middleton Guardian