Nonverbal autistic boy defies the odds to become gifted piano player

At the age of eight, Tim Wagter's headteacher told his parents that they couldn’t teach him anything, after autism left him nonverbal at a young age.

Now, the 17-year-old boy from Felpham is a gifted piano playing teenager.

Tim was diagnosed with autism at an early age, which is a lifelong, developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people.

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The condition left Tim nonverbal until he was three years old and when he did finally try to speak it was ‘almost impossible’ to understand him.

Sally said her son Tim's story is 'remarkable' and one that parents of autistic children 'need to know'

His mum Sally said: “It was difficult in the early years as Tim had a number of sensory issues.

“He struggled to cope with noise levels and certain sounds and this led to him having lots of meltdowns in public.

“I know the feeling of despair when you feel that you can’t go out to places because of the fear of other parents looking at you sideways, wondering what’s wrong with your child.”

Tim’s condition meant that he was unable to cooperate and he was often perceived as being a 'naughty child'. At the age of eight his headteacher told his parents that they couldn’t teach him anything.

To mark World Autism Awareness Week, which runs from March 30 to April 5, Tim Wagter’s parents Sally and Erik have thanked Caudwell Children — the charity which supported her son when he was five years old.

Erik said: “As a result of their help we began to celebrate everything that he could do and we made him feel accepted.

“We tried to see life through his eyes and we used what motivated him to help him access learning.”

Sally and Erik fought for a year to secure money to provide their son with a personal educational budget, which led to Tim being taught English by published authors and drama by an ex-West End actor.

Tim was also recently offered a place at the prestigious BIMM Institute, Europe’s largest and leading music college.

Sally said: “His life has completely turned around. He is nearly 18 with plenty of friends, he’s secured the equivalent of eight GCSEs, including a distinction for a music diploma at college, and has become a gifted pianist, even writing film scores and advertising his services for hire.

“It’s a remarkable story, and one that parents of autistic children need to know.

“Tim’s overcome so many difficulties and had so many breakthroughs and he’s exceeded our wildest dreams.

“He’s excited by his future and the career ahead of him, be it song writing, video editing, or acting.

“We know that autistic children are all different and respond in different ways, and some will have a different outcome.

“Tim’s gone from being nonverbal and uncooperative, to singing and entertaining people in public, it’s wonderful to see.”

Sally said she didn't think Tim would be 'anywhere near this level' without the help of Caudwell Children.

"We can’t than them enough,” she continued. “We’re lucky in that our approach to Tim’s condition, along with Caudwell Children’s long period of support, has helped our son to lead a happy, active and independent life.”

Trudi Beswick, CEO of Caudwell Children, said: “It only seems like yesterday when we agreed to support Tim.

“He’s made remarkable progress over the years and it’s incredible to see how he’s developed into a musical prodigy.

“With the public’s help we can support even more autistic children and young people like Tim.”

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