WHEN Jane Stooks’ son George was a toddler, a doctor told her the best way forward was to put him in full-time residential care.

Mrs Stooks had just been given the shattering news that George was autistic and would probably have a very limited life.

A first-time mum, she said she felt as if the world had ended.

Worse still, there was no explanation for George’s condition – he had just stopped communicating at around 13 months and began to withdraw.

Mrs Stooks and her now ex-husband went away to digest the information and to read the information pamphlets they had been given. But Mrs Stooks came to a decision quickly – she would reject the doctor’s advice and find her own way to give her son a future.

And 11 years on, the impact is clear.

Eagerly anticipating his 13th birthday in July, George loves gymnastics, playing the guitar, going to the cinema and having sleepovers with his friends.

But just 10 years ago, his future looked bleak.

Autism is a severe, developmental disorder that affects the way a person sees and interacts with the world.

Parents may notice that their toddler does not begin to talk or does not communicate or interact normally with themselves or others. As in the case of George, some autistic children avoid eye contact, or form repetitive actions and even react strongly to light and loud sounds.

Mrs Stooks, now 46, believes George’s autism was triggered by the Measles Mumps and Rubella jab, although she knows there is no medical evidence to prove this.

She said: “He had the jab at about 13 months and started to regress. By two, there was no verbal communication or pointing, which are traits of autism.

“George seemed to close in on himself. He seemed trapped inside his own little world.”

After a short stint at Bardwell special school in Bicester, Mrs Stooks raised £60,000 through a family trust and took George to America, where he underwent the controversial Son-rise programme, run by the Autism Centre of America.

The scheme encourages one-to-one structured play in a specially adapted playroom. And Mrs Stooks credits it with beginning the slow process of drawing her son out of himself.

Mrs Stooks built her own playroom at her then home in Fritwell, near Bicester, and she and a band of friends and volunteers continued to use their own form of play therapy to coax George from his silence and into the outside world again.

She said: “The years between then and now have been tough and demanding.

“I don’t lie to the other parents I meet; there were days when I put my head in my hands and asked: ‘Why me?’ But although it has been tough, it has been so worth it.”

Last year, aged 11, George took a major step when he became a pupil at Marlborough School in Woodstock.

Mrs Stooks has launched a new venture with a fellow parent of an autistic child. Positive Play Path Therapy advises parents of children with autism and other spectrum disorders, on how to use play therapy techniques to improve communication and participation.

For information go to positiveplay paththerapy.co.uk