West Hampstead mum says her son has “blossomed” under care of Swiss Cottage special needs school

A West Hampstead mum whose eight-year-old son attends Swiss Cottage special needs school has spoken of the “huge difference” it has made to her son’s life.

Tristan McAvoy was born with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome, which affects one in 125,000 children.

This means that his physical development suffers from delays compared with other children his age. He is visually impaired and his physical coordination and ability to perform tasks such as getting dressed are poor.

During four years at Swiss Cottage Specialist Special Educational Needs (SEN) School, his coordination has improved through specialist yoga and dance classes. His speech has also improved.

His mother Katia McAvoy, a former teaching assistant who now cares for Tristan full-time, said: “The school has made a huge difference. When he joined he didn’t speak at all. With the help of speech and language therapist, he is now able to communicate.

“Before that, it was extremely difficult and was leading to a lot of frustration for him and us.”

She praised the school’s approach to preparing children so they can stay safe in society, handle relationships, behave in public places and make the right choices in life, saying Tristan has become “more and more independent”.

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It has taken a weight off the mind of Tristan’s parents, who have four children aged between eight and 19, including Tristan.

She said her son, who has a passion for trains and loves horse-riding, swimming, ballet and yoga, has “blossomed” under the staff’s hard work and dedication and that he has “come out of his shell”.

She believes another great feature of the special school is the focus it puts on parents.

“Ms Bedford (the headteacher) says ‘You are part of our community and we have to work together’,” said Mrs McAvoy. “This makes a difference between this school and other schools.

“At the end of the day we know it’s the best. They really consider each child as an individual.”

The school has also helped the McAvoys access services and advice they would not otherwise have known about, such as a family therapist “to ensure the other children were fine”.

She also has high hopes for the school’s new centre.

“Obviously, we hope it will have links with important medical people – experts who can help with the issues children are having,” she said. “If people made a donation it would make a difference.”