Anthony Hornby 3

Former Student of Meath School & Dawn House School is running the marathon for I CAN

In April this year Anthony Hornby, a former-student of both Meath School and Dawn House School, will be running the London Marathon on behalf of I CAN. We spoke to Anthony and his mother Liz about their experience of I CAN’s support over the years and their motivations for getting involved.

Where the journey began

Aged two and a half Anthony was diagnosed with speech delay and started speech therapy on his third birthday however it soon became apparent that something more significant was wrong. Anthony wasn’t improving and aged five he still couldn’t join two words together to make a sentence. Anthony’s Mum Liz fought her local authority and eventually Anthony was assessed and recognised as having a severe communication need. This was when the real work began in finding the right school for him.

Liz spent days speaking to different schools to see if they could cater for Anthony until she eventually came across Meath School. Liz described the relief she felt when she spoke to the school administrator as overwhelming; they took the time to listen to her story and offered her help and advice. Following an initial assessment at Meath School the family finally had a diagnosis for Anthony; a classic case of ‘Severe Verbal Dyspraxia’. It was then their Local Authority agreed to fund Anthony’s place and he started at Meath School in September 1999.

Anthony’s time at Meath and Dawn House School

When Anthony arrived at Meath School at the age of seven he could barely string two words together. Yet when Liz attended the Christmas production at the end of his first term, she watched Anthony get up on stage and say (and sign in Makaton) “Go see the baby”. “Tears of joy streamed down my face and it was then that I realised he was definitely in the right place. He made good progress to begin with, despite a few periods where his development plateau’d, but Anthony did well to overcome this. I found Meath were exceptionally good at communicating with the family. They provided daily, detailed comments in his home/school diary to ensure we could see the progress he was making, over and above what was clear to us just by listening to him at home”.

Anthony thoroughly enjoyed his time at Meath School, although explains that it wasn’t always easy: “When I went to Meath it was shocking that I realise I had this disability I got. I enjoyed Meath School in some cases and sometimes I had bad days which wasn’t very good. At school it went super well and I spoke on my terms. All teachers were really nice to work with and through my years the teachers helped me to get where I am now”.

Moving on

When the time came for Anthony to move on, the family once again toured schools looking for secondary provision. They knew Anthony needed 24/7 support and it didn’t take long to find Dawn House School and agree that it was the right place for him. Anthony took immediately to the outdoor space and was often found playing outside, participating in as much sport as possible. He stayed on in their Post-16 unit and attended the local West Notts College. Dawn House School assisted with travel training so that Anthony could get to and from the college by himself on public transport. Life skills were part of the daily routine which prepared him for life outside the school.

“It was a long journey up to Dawn House School. When I got there I had fun and made new friends; teachers helped me with my speech and skills and I have fun where I stayed at that school. I went to the West Notts College and I did some courses there. Did some media, sports and cooking course”.

Liz said: “Anthony has done fantastically well. He now works at SportsAble (a local sports centre for disabled people) and is ambitious about his plans for the future. Wherever Anthony goes he is highly respected, whether it is at work, college, or at his local rugby club. The feedback I receive is always very positive. His manners are impeccable and he can now make himself understood, although there are still some words he struggles with.

We as a family are so proud of Anthony and his desire to run the Marathon and share his experiences. Anthony is training hard and is steadily improving. He has joined a local running club who are helping him train and we will be there on the day cheering him on from the sidelines along with his sister Christina. I hope that through Anthony’s fundraising efforts we can raise awareness about communication problems in children and young people. I would like people to learn tolerance and understand that this is a form of disability albeit one that is often hidden. I CAN have been a large part of our lives for 12 years and I strongly believe that without their support he would not be in the position he is today”.    

Anthony said: “Since leaving Meath and Dawn House School, I am able to communicate better and if I can’t say a word I always find a way to explain a way to say that I wanted to say. Sometimes I speak faster and people can’t understand me so I then learn to speak slower.

I want to say a big thank you to I CAN and raise money for how well they did to me and how far I’ve come from young child to adult. That’s why I want to raise money for one of the best charities – I CAN. It’s helping young kids coming to speak properly and communicate and be aware of what’s around them. Even if they can’t speak they always make sure people can communicate. I CAN is the best”.

To keep up to date with Anthony’s fundraising efforts and to make a donation please visit his page HERE.