Maghera singer unplugs for autism in support of five-year-old son

Five-year-old Daniel was diagnosed as autistic age three
Five-year-old Daniel was diagnosed as autistic age three

A Maghera dad is pulling in some of Mid Ulster’s great musical talent for an Unplugged for Autism event in support of his five-year-old.

James Bradley’s son Daniel was diagnosed with autism at the age of three but he said it took doctors almost a year to make a decision.

The Bradley family, from left, Daniel, 5, dad James, mum Janice, Lucy, 10, and Emily, 6, Katy, 4

The Bradley family, from left, Daniel, 5, dad James, mum Janice, Lucy, 10, and Emily, 6, Katy, 4

A supporter of Autism NI’s Mid Ulster Branch, the singer-songwriter is hosting an event at the Burnavon in an effort to raise money for the charity as well as awareness of the condition locally.

He said he hopes it will help children like Daniel to be diagnosed sooner.

“Daniel is five, he was diagnosed on his third birthday with autism,” James explained. “We sort of had suspicions around the age of two.

“After we started looking into it and realised there’s something here, it took us a full year for a diagnosis.”

Valuable time that James said could have been spent helping Daniel through therapies and support.

“Even up to now it takes 13-15 months, maybe 18 months because there are so many children getting tested for autism,” he went on.

“The biggest thing that you can do to help a child is early intervention, but you can’t do anything until the diagnosis is given by a doctor. Then you can get occupational therapy, speech therapy, physiotherapy and a one-to-one teacher.

“It opens up a whole lot of opportunities.

“In Daniel’s case, up until 18 months he was a perfectly normal functioning 18-month-old boy,” he added.

“There was speech... eye contact, there was crawling. But between 18 and 24 months just something happens.

“He started to lose his speech, his eye contact and it was as if he had just completely gone vacant.

“It’s quite scary,” he said.

But not every child with autism has the same symptoms as Daniel as it is a spectrum condition.

“Autism affects in different ways - there’s no two children with autism that are alike,” James explained.

“With Daniel he doesn’t have very much speech, so he can’t tell you when he’s hungry, he can’t tell you whenever he’s cold or he’s sore or anything like that.

“To look at him, he’s just a normal five-year-old child. You wouldn’t think there’s anything wrong until you start to engage with him.”

As well as music from both local the very talented James and his cousin Allie Bradley who has put pen to paper with Ed Sheeran, Harry Styles and the Kooks, Unplugged for Autism will feature Maghera singer Hannah Ferguson - last year’s All Ireland Scor Sinsir solo singing champion who now gigs at weddings, functions and pubs.

Tickets for the event are £12 and are available to buy from the Burnavon at burnavon.ticketsolve.com/mobile/shows/873540193