Living with Aspergers

A STOCKTON Aspergers suffer today urged the Government to do more to help people with Autism into university.

Natalie Lowther wasn’t disagnosed until she was 21 meaning that she had struggled throughout her education and left school and just 16.

Now the 21-year-old, who currently lives in Peterborough, is hoping that by highlighting the difficulties she faced she can help others stay in education.

Natalie said: “University wasn’t really something I wanted to do. If there had been a support system in place for students , It personally would not have impacted on whether or not I chose to apply.

“I’m sure if there were or are supports systems in place it would definitely help and encourage those who would otherwise feel as if they wouldn’t be able to cope or go to university.”

Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that can cause problems with talking to other people and reading body language. Sufferers may also repeat actions and have obsessive interests.

It was only when a trainee social worker, who was still at university, spotted the signs for Aspergers and did a quick assessment of Natalie that the developmental disorder was diagnosed.

For Natalie that meant school was particularly hard as she struggled to interact with other children. She left at 16 and still avoids places with crowds or where she might have to talk to strangers.

It was only when a trainee social worker, who was still at university, spotted the signs for Aspergers and did a quick assessment of Natalie that the developmental disorder was diagnosed.

Denise said: “Because it is a life long condition we have had to really change our lives to help her.

“On the one hand because there is a diagnosis there’s finally an explanation for why certain things are the way they are . It helped some people to understand that she wasn’t doing it on purpose – she can’t help her behaviour.

“But it is still stressful and I feel like I’m walking on egg shells all the time, sometimes Natalie will have a good day, but she’ll wake up the next morning and won’t be able to leave the house. It can be really difficult for us all”.

Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that can cause problems with talking to other people and reading body language. Sufferers may also repeat actions and have obsessive interests.

National Institute of Child Health and Mental Development estimate that 1 in 500 people people have some from of Aspergers syndrome.

For Natalie that meant school was particularly hard as she struggled to interact with other children. She left at 16 and still avoids places with crowds or where she might have to talk to strangers.

Natalie said:  “I’m not all that aware of what overall government support is available with regards to Asperger’s.I do know that support varies from county to county, and some counties – like Nottingham-shire – have a lot more resources in place.

“In an ideal world, benefits should only be there as an aid to get into work, unfortunately some disabilities make finding and doing a job extremely difficult, and the benefits given out simply don’t cover the cost of living. Cuts are only going to worsen this. Any cuts on health services will have an impact on services available for someone with Asperger’s or mental health issues. Services are already strained and limited, and this will only worsen.

“They have a team dedicated solely towards it, whereas within Peterborough, for example, there weren’t a lot of resources available, and finding support proved difficult, and I had to rely on services provided for other disabilities (my anxiety, for example).”


OUT AND ABOUT: Natalie and her Dad ? enjoy the sights of London.

It was a big impact on the family when Natalie was diagnosed with Aspergers, as it meant they couldn’t go to town as often as they’d like as quieter places were easier for Natalie to be in.

Denise said: “If we ever went to town we would have to tell Natalie which shops we were going into beforehand. If we went into a shop without telling Natalie she wouldn’t go in.”

Activities or day’s out had to be planned a week in advance in order for Natalie to be prepared and know what was going on.

Denise had a job as a social worker but wasn’t allowed to leave work if Natalie ever needed her or if she had to be taken for hospital appointments.

After a couple of years Denise changed jobs and moved to the highway’s department at Peteborough City Council.

“It is stressful and I feel like I’m walking on egg shells all the time, sometimes Natalie will have a good day, but she’ll wake up the next morning and won’t be able to leave the house.”

As a parent Denise did receive help but a lot of the support came from meetings she attended which were aimed at parents who had children with Aspergers.

There isn’t a big facility in Peterborough for people with Aspergers so Denise had to go to the Aspergers society in London.

In Middlesbrough there is a family support group called Middlesbrough Matters on Homerton Road to support family and friends who know somebody affected Aspergers.

Since being diagnosed at 21 Natalie has come on in leaps and bounds, all thanks to cognitive therapy which she has been attending.

Denise is helping Natalie to try and get a job at Peterborough City Council, it has been hard to get Natalie a job as sometimes employers don’t understand Aspergers or the fact Natalie can get herself worked up over tasks.

This is a lifetime illness that requires a lifelong commitment from family, although with this family there is no doubt about the love and caring that is present.

For anyone who would like to find out more information about austism, you can visit


NATALIE: enjoying a day out after being given all clear from hospital


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How I survived cancer – by Tside reporter Dan Bullock

TSIDE REPORTER-and Multimedia Journalism student Dan Bullock was diagnosed at three with Leukemia and survived defying the odds.

But two of his best friends he met during treatment did not.

Today, as leading cancer journals Annals of Oncology announced that the number of deaths from Leukemia are falling, Dan remembers his fight and wonders – would modern treatment have saved my friends?

DREAMS: Me and my girlfriend after my parents took us to Disney

DREAMS: Me and my girlfriend after my parents took us to Disney

“Leukemia is a form of cancer which occurs in the blood cells and Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, known as A.L.L. It is the most common cancer in young children and it’s also one that I am very familiar with.

“At just three year’s old, I was diagnosed with A.L.L.

“I will never forget the day I was diagnosed. I’d been to gymnastics class, which my grandparents, but because I hadn’t been feeling well Mam turned up too.

“After I didn’t have enough energy to play on my favourite trampoline, she decided that instead of going straight home for tea, she was going to take me to be checked out at hospital. The doctors must have known it was something serious because I was rushed in am ambulance from Hartlepool to Newcastle’s RVI.

“My mam still wells up with tears when she remembers the journey and how I turned to her and said: “It’s okay mummy, I’ll be fine.”

SUFFERING: I sat in my hospital bed reading my favourite comics

SUFFERING: I sat in my hospital bed reading my favourite comics

“But not everything was fine.

“From them on my life was a different one. I was tired and confused. My mates were too – they couldn’t understand why I couldn’t play footie any more, while I had no hair. And I couldn’t explain it.

“But I made new friends. The two I will never forget are Adam and Hattie who I met throughout our treatment on the ward.

“Adam was my best buddy. We played board and computer games. We had little bikes we’d ride in ward -sometimes getting told off my the nurses. We talked across the ward to each other from our beds at night, telling each other stories.

“We were two peas in a pod. But I’m the only one left.

STRUTTING MY STUFF: raising money for Cancer Research UK

STRUTTING MY STUFF: raising money for Cancer Research UK

“Hattie and I took to the stage at Tall Trees Hotel in Yarm, for two nights of catwalk modelling (check out me on the left I’m so cool…)

“It was called a celebration of life after cancer, and still goes on today in local areas.

“A few months down the line we all had a reunion to watch the DVD that was made of the event but Hattie was not there.

Treatment for A.L.L. was originally going to be two years. At the time it was two years for girls and two years for boys with an optional third year.

My mam and dad opted to extend my treatment for the further year and I survived. I will always wonder why I was the lucky one and they didn’t make it.

“The strength of my parents throughout my treatment is something that still amazes me and I know I won’t have seen their faces behind closed doors.

“Mam says she went to church every Sunday and prayed. She thinks that paid off. I don’t know, but if it helped her cope I’m all for it.

It’s been almost 18 years since I was diagnosed on May 14th 1998.

A BRAVE SMILE: Always trying to keep strong

A BRAVE SMILE: Always trying to keep strong

“I know that parents all over the globe with suffering children are still praying every single day for their child to be fine – and that not all of them will be as lucky as I class myself.

“To this day I still try to raise money and help by filling in questionnaires and volunteering for medical research into cancer.

I have filled out numbers of questionnaires for the RVI hospital talking about life after cancer.

My doctor always wondered if I had the abilities to keep up with people in my P.E. class at school, and I proved to him that I did by playing for a number of football teams.

Now, I’m currently fulfilling another dream, learning my trade in Journalism and talking about football.

“All I can do is hope and pray that for all those parents out there that have suffering children is that these statistics are right and finally there is a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel.”

You can donate money to Cancer Research UK here and together we can beat Cancer sooner.


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Businessman goes from employee to supplier after redundancy

A LOCAL business owner who started his own company during the recession is now supplying to the firm who made him redundant.

David Franks was one of hundreds at Pentair Filtration in Billingham to be let go in 2008 when the plant was re-located to Belgium.

Eight years on he is running his own independent business which supplies filtration products as far as Australia and Japan, as well as his former employer.

RISING FROM THE ASHES: From redundancy to owning a global company in eight years

RISING FROM THE ASHES: From redundancy to owning a global company in eight years

David made the decision to start fresh with his own company, AFL Filtration, during the worst financial crisis in 70 years.

“People said I was crazy to start my own business right in the middle of the recession,” he said.

“But I have worked in filtration since 1996 and truly believed in the product. I had nothing to lose – the company started with just me, one customer and one product.

“Now we have 40 regular customers in more than 13 different countries and I have four people working with me.”

David says that the company would never have got off the ground if it wasn’t for the support of Aycliffe businessman Gerald Wiper, who offered space in his warehouse for free while he got on his feet.

David also got in touch with another employee made redundant by Pentair to help kick start sales.

He added: “We started in a niche market with what we knew to be an excellent product. From previous contacts and colleagues we slowly began to grow and expand our products in the market.

“When the business started to grow however, we realised we needed more space to work in.”

AFL’s defining moment arrived when they were contacted by multi-billion pound company Pentair Filtration – who had laid Dave off six years earlier.

They approached Mr Franks – their former UK Operations Manager – to take a look at some manufacturing products they had sent to Belgium.

“Pentair are one of the highest grossing filtration company on the planet,”David said, “It was one of proudest moments of my career.”

“To have them come to us for help showed me I was right to start my own business and believe in myself eight years ago.”


ROOM TO MANOEUVRE: The new factory space is a far cry from the small space in 2008

ROOM TO MANOEUVRE: The new factory space is a far cry from the tiny corner in an Aycliffe warehouse in 2008

“Our aim is to expand both sales in the UK and worldwide.

“There have been highs and lows, but I am proud of what I have achieved and am excited for the future of AFL.”

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Travel back to a bygone era at Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience.

Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience


Have you ever thought of what it would be like living in Nelson’s or Napoleon’s time? Well, if you have, you can experience it at Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience.

Wingfield Castle, a fully restored paddle steamer, along with HMS Trincomalee, a frigate built after  the Napoleonic period, stand out among other Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience attractions as they take visitors back to the era when they were regarded as testaments to Royal Navy superiority.

Winfield Castle

The Museum of Hartlepool, part of the Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience,  also features a variety of exhibits from Iron Age axes to nineteenth century toys, Anglo-Saxon jewellery, to a gas illuminated light house and ship models.

The Hartlepool Museum is one of the top ten free visitor attractions in the UK. It was opened in 1994 and Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience was the winner of the North East Visitor Attraction of the Year 2009.

Hartlepool Museum

The entry to the Museum of Hartlepool and PSS Wingfield Castle is free. There is a large free parking available to visitors. To find out about entry fees to the HMS Trincomalee and opening hours please visit the Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience at

Alternatively for personal inquiries you can contact the Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience either by calling the office on: (01429) 860077 or electronically at




For more information please click on link below.

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Boro Bounce Back With A Win Against Wolves


Middlesbrough ended the week on a high with a 2-1 win against Wolves which warmed up a chilly Friday evening at The Riverside.

Two good goals from Gaston Ramirez marked a comfortable evening despite Ben Gibson’s late own goal, which sent Boro top temporarily ahead of the weekend’s fixtures.

22,110 fans where in attendance as Wolves where looking for their first win on Teesside since April 1951.

Five changes where made to the team which lost at Blackburn on Monday, with Ramirez and Adomah coming in and Stewart Downing being left on the bench.

And the two attacking players where the best on the pitch creating plenty of chances in the game justifying their selection by manager Aitor Karanka.

Middlesbrough opened up proceedings after Ramirez hit in a free kick in the 24th minute which Wolves struggled to clear, and Adam Clayton floated the ball into the box which was met by a darting run at the back post by Ramirez which was headed in to make it 1-0.

Wolves failed to make any clear cut chances and rarely threatened in the first half with Nathan Byrne blasting over from range just before half time.

And Boro continued to press with new signing Jordan Rhodes forcing a good save from former keeper Carl Ikeme early in the second half.

The pace down both wings kept threatening the Wolves with good runs on either side from Adomah and Nsue pushing the away teams defence.

But it was that man Ramirez who popped up again in the 54th minute.

The Uruguayan ran into the box and put a cool curling finish into the right hand side of the net which was met to roars around The Riverside.

Signed on loan from Southampton in January he has impressed in a Boro shirt so far, staking a claim for a permanent signature as he runs down his contract which expires in the summer.

Boro continued to put pressure on the Wolves defence with a great piece of play seeing George Friend put one just wide later in the half.

A late push from Wolves saw Ben Gibson head into his own net but that proved the only goal they would score as Boro ended Friday night top of the league with a 2-1 victory.

Wolves boss Kenny Jackett labelled the reds “Too Good”, and at least the Boro fans could end the week on a high note after the disappointing defeat to Blackburn on Monday

Attendance: 22,110

Man Of The Match: Gaston Ramirez

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Boro youngster Bradley Fewster talks survival with loan club York City

Boro and England U19 star Bradley Fewster, who is currently on loan at York City , has told Tside how he is aiming to help keep the team in the Football League.

Fewster, who has represented England at U19 level with an impressive five goals in seven games, has played seven games for York.

Since joining on loan Fewster has scored an impressive six goals in 13 appearances.

Fewster story

Bradley Fewster in action

Fewster, who has extended his loan from Middlesbrough until the end of the season, has settled well living in York he told Tside.


Confirmation of Fewster’s extended loan at York City

He said; “I’m with  a good bunch of lads which makes it easier to settle, I’m enjoying myself I feel relaxed and we have a laugh.”

“Mentally I am the same I can cope with playing in front of crowds and I feel like I am playing for something where as at the U21 it’s just about development, but here I am here to prove a point and help the team win games.

“I want to learn as much as possible and play as many games as I can and go back to Boro a better and more experienced player.”

York City have 12 games left this season and currently sit second bottom of League Divsion Two and are two points from safety.

The Minstermen will have to start picking up some wins if they are to remain a Football League team come next season.

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What’s it like being a Beauty Queen?

Ask most people about Beauty Contests  and you’ll get a mixed reaction – they either love them or loath them?

But what’s it like to be crowned a Beauty Queen?

Tside reporter Courtney McCarten caught up with 19-year-old Rebecca Ridsdale, who was crown Miss Tees Valley 2015, to find out.


Rebecca Ridsdale crowned Miss Tees Valley 2015

Rebecca Ridsdale crowned Miss Tees Valley 2015

The aim of Miss Tees Valley is to find the area’s Next Top Model and Role Model.

Last year the competition was partnered with The Butterwick Hospice and Rebecca, along with the other 16 grand finalists, raised over £19,000 for the charity.

Rebecca and the other 16 grand finalists including 1st Runner Up Nicole Hinchley and 3rd Runner Up Abbie Wray

Rebecca and the other 16 grand finalists including 1st Runner Up Nicole Hinchley and 3rd Runner Up Abbie Wray


Q: First of all Rebecca, what inspired you to first start taking part in beauty pageants?

A: “I’ve never been a size 6 type of girl I’ve always been curvy and I went through a time where I lost all confidence in myself.

“I wanted to prove to myself and others that they shouldn’t be ashamed and that you can do it no matter what size you are.

“My first pageant was Galaxy in February 2015 and as soon as I had competed in that one I had to apply for another, I got the pageant bug!

“I applied for Miss Tees Valley and I was super excited as I couldn’t wait to achieve more goals for myself.”

Q:What did you get up too during Miss Tees Valley?

A: “During the competition I took part in many different events raising awareness for different associations.

“One of my favourites was raising awareness for domestic violence.

Domestic Violence Campaign Left to Right: Nicole Hinchley, Rebecca Ridsdale, Megan Stone

Domestic Violence Campaign Left to Right: Nicole Hinchley, Rebecca Ridsdale, Megan Stone

“We created looks such as bruised faces and it was really interesting to take part in a photo shoot that involved showing different emotions as we weren’t to smile or be happy, we had to show sadness and fear.

“It was amazing to know that I was making a difference along with the other girls who took part in the campaign.”

Q: How did you get on fundraising for such an amazing cause?

A: “Overall, we raised over £19,000 for the Butterwick Hospice which is outstanding.

“Every single lady who took part in Miss Tees Valley truly put every effort they could into raising as much money as possible.

“I helped by doing blind cards and bingo nights and I also walked round with buckets at a football tournament.”

Q: How did it feel to be crowned Miss Tees Valley 2015?

A: “I was not expecting to be crowned, I couldn’t believe it.”

“My aim was to prove you can achieve whatever you like and not to let size or difference bother you.

“Then to actually be crowned, I was overwhelmed with pride.”

Q: What have you been up too so far in your reigning year?

A: “Up to now I’ve modelled at the Cleveland Centre, which sponsors the competition, and I helped out the recent Valentines’ event a couple of weeks ago.”

“I’ve taken part in many different live radio shows, I’ve been able to help with photo shoots for different companies.

“I also handed the check over the Butterwick Hospice and visited Zoes place which is a fabulous charity and the girls will be fundraising for them as part of the 2016 competition.

Handing over the £19,000 cheque.

“My next pageant is Supermodel England and I’m so super excited.

“I’m also raising money for Zoe’s place and it’s going to be an amazing event.”

So, it looks like Rebecca is having an amazing time representing Teesside all across the North East.

You can still apply for Miss Tees Valley 2016, where Rebecca will be handing over her crown to the new winner at The Swan Hotel on  October 21.

from Tside

Student makes hundreds on online surveys


Olivia Kiss, Survey Expert!

A Middlesbrough textiles student has earned hundreds of pounds by completing online surveys.

Olivia Kiss, 20, has been filling out surveys since early last year and has found it as an easy way to earn extra cash.

After following a post on Facebook, she registered to a number of sites and began to share her opinions.

She estimates that she’s made over £300 and says it’s easy if you have the time.

She said: “I don’t personally find it too time consuming because I do surveys whilst waiting for the train on my way to uni or watching TV on a night so I’d only be on Facebook or Instagram anyway.”

However making big money doesn’t just happen overnight, Olivia say’s that it takes more than just filling in one or two surveys.

She said: “I usually complete about ten everyday and I make anything from 80p to £15 per survey, the ones that are longer are usually for more money.”

The survey’s Olivia completes normally focus on shopping and opinions on certain brands but the questions can be a little dubious.

She said: “Hardly any of them are interesting but I was once asked how the packaging of a Weetabix box made me feel,that was a bit strange.”

These online survey’s seem to be the new way companies are finding out consumer opinions.

Olivia said: “I think companies are paying for my opinions to see if the concept of a product would work and for opinions of what is currently on sale”

It’s not always money on offer either, Olivia boasts the benefits of being involved online include free samples and testers of products.

She said: “There’s lots of incentives for doing surveys other than money. I’ve been sent food to try and I’ve got sent a £10 Starbucks voucher as well.”

The money she earns from these surveys certainly doesn’t go to waste as it helps to fund her never ending list of uni supplies.

She said: “I buy new paints, fabrics… pretty much everything I need for uni with my money. Textiles is a pricey career path.”

It’s clear to see that there is money to be made online and Olivia is part of the new trend of being an internet earner.


from Tside

Middlesbrough Man Hit With Rare Illness

A Teesside man has told how he copes with life after contracting a rare disease that only affects one in every 3,000 people in Britain.

Simon Heslehurst, 47 , is a plater from Middlesbrough who hasn’t had a job since he fell dangerously ill last August.

Simon contracted Endocarditis  which is a rare and potentially fatal heart infection that is estimated to affect 1 in 3,000 people in the UK a year.

Which is why Simon was astonished to find he had contracted the rare condition while working 100 miles away from home in Worksop.

He said: “I spent a full week in the Worksop hospital, my wife and youngest daughter came down immediately on the train and that was before we realised how bad I was.”

simon hospital

Simon in James Cook hospital, towards the end of his recovery, with his grandchildren.

With the infection being so rare it took 11 days for Simon to be diagnosed.

He said: “At first the doctor’s didn’t know what was wrong with me.”

“They thought I may have had meningitis or something I might have picked up from work.

“When I was admitted I was quarantined and everyone had to wear surgical masks and aprons.”

When Simon first began to feel ill he continued to go to work and dismissed his symptoms.

He said: “I just thought I had the worst possible flu imaginable and took some ibuprofen.”

“Eventually my wife rang me a local taxi to take me to the hospital.

“I was sweating and shaking uncontrollably, the doctor took one look at me and took me straight through.”

Simon’s wife, Joanne, tried to help him as much as she could by feeding him and moving him as he wanted.

But Simon’s appetite was non-existent and in total he lost 3 stone in weight.

He said: “I can’t remember anything from that week in the Worksop hospital.”

“I could barely move a muscle and when I did the pain was excruciating.

“My family tell me that when I was awake I had hallucinations. One thing I do remember is how relieved I felt at being sent to James Cook.”

Despite the relief of Simon and his family, his condition did not improve.

He said: “The ambulance ride to James Cook was very scary, we drove the whole way with the sirens on as the Doctors weren’t sure if I would survive the journey.”

Endocarditis is an infection on the inner lining of the heart and often requires surgery to either clean or replace the heart valve with a mechanical one. Either option often causes a lot of complications further in life.

Simon said: “After a few days at James Cook the doctor told my wife and I that he wasn’t seeing the improvement in my condition he would expect.

“He reluctantly booked me in for emergency surgery the next day and told us to expect the worse.

“My immune system was destroyed and with how weak I was they again thought I was going to die.

“I was speechless. The doctor told us so bluntly that I most likely wouldn’t survive as he couldn’t give false hope. My wife was inconsolable.”

Luckily, the doctor decided to examine Simon again by putting a camera down his throat, where he found a more reliable sign of improvement. The operation was cancelled and Simon’s dosage of antibiotics doubled.

He said: “Slowly I got better, but upon leaving the hospital I caught Eunomia and I have to go to physiotherapy so that I can get back to work.”

In total Simon spent six weeks in hospital.

He said: “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the brilliant care given to me by the staff at James Cook.”

“They all worked so hard, especially the nurses who worked 12 hour shifts. I can’t thank them enough.”



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