Four-year-old Cameron suffered from non-stop ear and chest infections, bouts of tonsillitis and multiple food intolerances for almost two years.

But because he is autistic and pre-verbal, his mum Candice Burton struggled to get medical staff to take it seriously.

Once, when he was in obvious distress, a nurse told her: “This is just what autistic children do. It’s their behaviour.”

Another doctor told her Cameron couldn’t possibly be autistic because he smiled, and put his illnesses down to a hearing problem because the little boy didn’t respond to his name.

Candice fought to be heard, writing a five-page letter to the manager of her doctors’ practice and enlisting the support of her Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).

Cameron was finally seen by Ear, Nose and Throat specialists last September who performed an operation to take his adenoids out and put grommets in his ears in November.

“He’s had no ear infections or tonsillitis since – I wasn’t making it up,” says Candice, from Newton Aycliffe. “He really did need it, but it’s exhausting getting to that point.

I have had to be his voice. For almost two years it was this constant battle.

Candice describes being at the doctors’ surgery almost every week when Cameron was poorly. He couldn’t say what was wrong but would hit himself in the head or headbutt things when he was in pain.

But nurses told her he was fine and that it was typical behaviour for an autistic child. Candice says: “It wasn’t about getting him ‘fixed’ behaviourally. This was him telling me something was wrong.”

After her lengthy letter to the practice manager, Cameron was referred for an MRI scan as well as to ENT and a dietician. Because NHS waiting times were so long, Candice tried taking him to a private doctor.

“The private medic said he couldn’t be autistic because autistic people don’t smile. Yet Cameron loves giving big cuddles and he’s a very loving child. The medic also told me his problems were just with his hearing, because he didn’t respond to his name. When they sent me a bill, I wrote back saying we wouldn’t be paying it.”

It took another six months to see ENT, and a further two months for his operation. Candice is overjoyed with the result but says it shouldn’t have been such a fight.

“Children’s voices should be heard, even if that’s through their parents. They deserve the same quality of life as everyone else,” she says.

Cameron is an incredible human being. Autistic children deserve to be seen. They have faces and names. They are worthy of love and care and support, and they deserve to be valued and treated carefully.

Candice’s husband is in the Navy and was on a year-long sea trip when Cameron was two, so she appreciates the stress and exhaustion many families of children with special needs feel when they are fighting for support.

She says: “People think they are the only person going through this. That's why I am sharing our story, to show other people they are not alone.

"I used to question, ‘why me?’ Now I think, ‘why not me?’ It’s my son’s journey but I’m walking alongside him.”

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