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He asks for a set of real traffic lights every day

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Longford Leader, 11 September 2009.
By Aisling Kiernan

The hunt is on to find a 'real' set of traffic lights for an 11-year-old autistic boy from north Longford. Matthew Byrne from Ballinamuck was diagnosed with autism at the age of three and in recent years he has developed a fascination with traffic lights, which his father Simon says, indicates his son's development as Matthew and his family cope with his illness on a daily basis.

"Matthew was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old," Simon told the Leader. "Despite his illness, Matthew is doing very well. He is fascinated with real traffic lights, so much so that when we are out and about and Matthew spots a set of lights, we have to take a photograph of them, so that he can look at them again.

"We have bought him toy lights but they do not have the same positive impact on him that real traffic lights have.

"He literally asks for a set of real lights every day. We have been trying to get a set for him for the past few years, but have been unsuccessful so far. That is why we decided to place an advertisement on Gumtree and see what that might bring us."

Simon went on to say that he and wife Maria were of the opinion that the sequence of the lights helped Matthew to feel safe and secure because their son understood that the lights controlled traffic.

He also pointed out that it was clear from the onset of Matthew's illness that he was different from his older brother Luke and that a quick diagnosis helped the family to understand Matthew better. "We noticed straight off that Matthew was different to Luke," he said.

"When he was not doing normal things by the age of two and a half we knew that something was wrong, so we brought him to our GP. As it turned out the GP had a child who was autistic and he read the signs straight off and Matthew got a quick diagnosis. We were lucky then that we were able to embark on an early intervention programme which was fantastic."

Despite his learning difficulties, Matthew attends mainstream school, has very good vocabulary and can hold a conversation and so goes against the grain somewhat for a child with autism because he has excellent social skills.

He also shows a lot of love and affection but can be demanding both physically and mentally.

Bed time is always a challenge in the Byrne household and Matthew will only eat a very small variety of food including chips and unbuttered bread. "When it comes to food, Matthew smells it first and if he doesn't like the smell, he won't eat it, which is very stressful and worrying for us," said Simon.

"We have been assured that this should improve and that his tastes will change as he gets older.

"He can go from being a very mild mannered child to being quite aggressive and rowdy but it's mostly down to frustration. We live near Maria's parents and they are so helpful to us with Matthew and we would just like to thank them so much for their support and help."

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Story, Photo copyright Longford Leader.

Matthew with his parents, Simon and Maria. "He literally asks for a set of real lights every day. We have been trying to get a set for him for the past few years, but have been unsuccessful so far" .. Matthew Byrne's father, Simon

He asks for a set of real traffic lights every day
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