Speaking Up and Giving Back – Anthony’s Story
Anthony Hornby is an alumni of both our Meath and Dawn House schools. His mother, Liz Hornby tells us about the fantastic progress he has made in his speech and language, his marathon running and even his first steps into after-dinner speaking!
In April 2017 Anthony took part in the London Marathon raising money for I CAN. Considering he’d never run a full marathon before and London can get very crowded, he did it in an incredible time of 4 hours 12 minutes! He also raised an incredible £3,000 for I CAN – it was his way of ‘giving back’ for all the help they’d given him over the 12 years he attended both Meath and Dawn House Schools.
Anthony went to Meath School at the age of 7 having first spent some time at a Speech and Language base within a primary school where he’d failed to make any progress.
During one of his progress meetings, I voiced a desire that there had to be somewhere he could go so he could access a 24-hour curriculum. After much to-ing and fro-ing we found Meath, where Anthony started in the autumn of 1999 aged just 7-years old. That was the start of a 12-year journey with I CAN.
Since leaving school, Anthony has been to college, studying sports and outdoor activities. He loves sport and is extremely good at whatever sport he plays.
Four years ago, Anthony was given the opportunity of an apprenticeship at a sports club for disabled people called SportsAble in Maidenhead. Anthony’s role was in a sports capacity as well as supporting the centre when other groups hired their hall. Anthony’s bosses were very impressed with the progress he made during the time he was there, particularly his confidence levels and speech; so much so that he was offered a part-time job after his apprenticeship and then, just a few months ago, a full-time role!
Both Mark (my husband) and I have noticed a rise in his confidence levels. He’s able to make himself understood far more than before as his speech is definitely clearer. His co-workers at SportsAble recognise when things become too much for him and know that Anthony just needs to leave and go for a walk to clear his head.
In 2016 Anthony was asked to run the Windsor Half-Marathon in aid of SportsAble. He’d never run seriously before but he put his heart and soul into training. We both thought he’d probably complete it in a little over 2 hours but he did it in an incredible time of 1 hour 53 minutes.
As a result, Anthony had, almost accidentally, found a sport he excelled at. He then started running regularly and wanted to enter more races. The more he ran, the more he enjoyed himself as sometimes he can be inside his own head with his own thoughts, with no-one to answer to.
When Anthony decided he wanted to run the 2017 London Marathon for I CAN, he joined our local athletic club and quickly made friends.
Anthony’s a big fan of Japanese animations such as Animé, Ghibli, Manga and Pokémon and had wanted to travel to Japan for a long time. We thought we might go to watch the Paralympics in 2020. However, on sitting Anthony down and asking him exactly what he wanted out of the trip, he said that he wanted to see much more of Japan i.e. its culture, history etc.
So, we decided we’d go in autumn 2018. We were lucky enough to be invited to stay with family in Tokyo. We then travelled around the country, visiting cities like Hiroshima, Kyoto and Osaka.
As we sat in a restaurant on our last night, I asked Anthony whether everything I’d organised was all right. He replied that he’d had an amazing time and that yes, I’d ‘got it right’! Amazingly we were still talking to each other when we landed back at Heathrow!
Despite his speech difficulties with English, he had enough confidence to say a couple of phrases in Japanese – such as Konnichiwa (hello) and Arigato (thank you).
What has made me so proud of Anthony recently is when he agreed to deliver a speech in front of about 30 people, including the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP about his experiences with I CAN at the Speaker’s House in Westminster. The words he read out were his words, not mine and he delivered them with a huge amount of confidence (although he was, understandably, nervous). The applause when he finished was sincere and prolonged and it was very difficult to follow, which is what I had to do!
I CAN gave him the grounding – and confidence – to ‘go out there’ and make something of his life which he does every single day. Anthony makes me proud every day. From his first day at Meath School to now, he has made progress beyond our wildest dreams and I’m proud to call him my son.