The Journey of Four Year Old Shirley

Thursday 03 August 2017

When Shirley was first received into the care of the Cameron family, it had been planned for this to be a temporary placement. As she was only 4 years old the Local Authority had their sights on placing Shirley for adoption to find her forever family. Shirley has a diagnosis of autism and at this stage of her life, it was not possible to ascertain her future developmental needs.


When she came into our care Shirley did not walk, even though she was 4 years old. She was still in nappies and ate only jars of baby food and bottles of milk. Most important of all, she was unable to communicate with others. The Cameron family and their two daughters aged 7 & 10 were unsure of how they would support her as they felt they were not skilled in looking after a young person whose needs were so unpredictable. However, discussions with their supervising social worker during the matching process gave them confidence that they could offer a nurturing and loving environment for Shirley, knowing they would be fully supported by all professionals in the team around the child.

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Within the first three weeks of coming to stay with the family, they supported Shirley to walk. Through constant guidance and reassurance, she gained the confidence to leave her pushchair at home and now loves being outdoors, running around and walking for miles!

The Cameron family also supported Shirley onto solid foods by introducing them little by little. Shirley will now try any food and loves fruit. She has a healthy appetite and the family must be mindful as to what they leave on the worktops as Shirley can reach up and help herself!

In terms of communication, the family have worked extremely hard with Shirley and her speech and language therapists to bring on her communication skills. The family have learned how to use picture exchange cards for her to communicate with them. This enables Shirley to show a picture to the family of what she wants to do. Shirley has come on leaps and bounds in this area and can now use her picture cards to make small sentences such as “I want”. She is now counting her numbers, saying her alphabet and relating her letters to different items.

Because of the trusting bond Shirley has built with this family and the progress she has made in such a short time, especially for a little girl with autism, her social worker is now proceeding to obtain a permanence order for her to remain with this family until adulthood.