How a remarkable transformation helped an autistic little boy who could not speak to gain a top university degree

A young man who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two has now beaten all the odds - and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts honours degree.

Friday, 30th November 2018, 11:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 3:34 am
George Clarrke, who has autism, overcame his difficulties to gain a BA (Hons) in Theatre Arts SUS-181129-171338001
George Clarrke, who has autism, overcame his difficulties to gain a BA (Hons) in Theatre Arts SUS-181129-171338001

George Clarke, 22, surpassed all expectations and is now working as a design technician at a Crawley school and in his spare time is producing his own collection of illustrated comics with a view to publication.

Proud parents Rosie and Tim Clarke, from Ashington, are now hoping that George’s achievements will help to inspire others who are diagnosed as autistic.

Mum Rosie said: “After his diagnosis in March 1998, all hopes and expectations were reduced to zero and the future seemed very limited for him. We were told he would never attend a mainstream secondary school.”

George Clarke, who has autism, pictured taking part in the Brighton Fringe SUS-181129-171349001

But George - whose speech and language disorder was so severe when he was a toddler that it was ‘off the scale’ - was referred to Opportunity Playgroup in Hills Farm Lane, Horsham, and then went on to Horsham Nursery School where he began to talk.

And it was the start of a remarkable transformation. He had home education visits for children with learning disabilies. In 2001 he went to Ashington School where he was given one-to-one support. And from there George went on to Steyning Grammar School. “He was not expected to gain any GCEs,” said Rosie, who works as a support assistant at a school for children with special needs. But George proved everyone wrong and ended up passing nine GCSEs - and also completed A levels in the sixth form.

Dad Tim, who is head of science at an independent school, said: “My wife and I both worked very hard with him and, in turn, he responded and worked incredibly hard to get through all his exams.”

George, whose younger brother Henry is also severely autistic, graduated from Brighton University in July with a BA (Hons) in Theatre Arts, specialising in prop-making and special effects. And George himself admits it was hard work.

“Usually I struggled with trying to understand other people when they tried to talk to me. I sometimes had to get people to explain a bit more and get them to repeat themselves.

“I think the hardest thing during the time I was at university was trying to understand the briefs.”

But now, following his academic success, George is using his spare time to undertake freelance work producing illustrated cartoon-style comics which he hopes to have published.