An autistic dad has spoken about the help he has received in strengthening bonds with his son after help from Oldham Family Hub.

Joshua Bardsley, 24, from Oldham, and his three-year-old son, also called Joshua, have been attending a free eight-week development course to progress together.

Joshua (Sr) was diagnosed with autism when he was aged 21 and decided he wanted to tackle certain traits so that his son would not also develop them through learnt behaviour.

Joshua said: "I was diagnosed with autism at 21 and I wanted to overcome my dislike of mess because I didn’t want to pass that on.

"Before coming here, I didn’t even wash the pots and I didn’t like using creams.”

Joshua has been helping support his son's early developmentJoshua has been helping support his son's early development (Image: Oldham Council)

Joshua says the coaching course, through the Making It REAL (Raising Early Achievement in Literacy) programme, has helped both him and his son progress. 

The course is delivered by Home-Start HOST as part of their partnership with the Family Hub. 

It includes home visits and face-to-face group sessions which are held in pre-schools, nurseries, family hubs and community buildings. 

Aimed at parents and their children aged three to five, the course works to help inform parents of how to help their child's early learning development at home.

Joshua and his son have been able to strengthen their bonds through the sessions.Joshua and his son have been able to strengthen their bonds through the sessions (Image: Oldham Council)

Joshua, who joined sessions held at Richmond Academy, said: “We’ve took some of the activities from here and brought them home.

"So, for example, now we do things like making play dough and spending hours round the table as a family doing little activities to make the bond a bit better.

“It gives you more to talk about and it helps with describing things.”

He added: “We do reading and sometimes we’ll go out and do things while out in the park.

“But there’s only so many times you can go up and down a slide and round the swings and roundabouts, so this just makes more things to do at home.”

Parents are encouraged to talk about what has worked well and how the activities have benefited their child.

Each week there is a new focus including listening and understanding, talk and communication, early literacy and early maths.

The four strands of REAL - books, oral language and rhyme, environmental print such as street signs, logos, labels and early mark making such as lines, dots and patterns -  are part of all the sessions.

The father and son are now able to carry out activities on their ownThe father and son are now able to carry out activities on their own (Image: Oldham Council)

The parents and children are given activity packs at the end of the sessions to carry out with their child at home.

One of the Play, Learn, Grow practitioners said: “It has been wonderful to watch the children interacting with their families and we have learnt so much more about our children and their families by taking part in the project.

“We have found that the sessions have had a positive impact on our children’s attendance, confidence and communication and language skills.

“The children and the parents have made some lovely friendships and relationships between parents and staff are also stronger as a result.

“Parents are more aware of how to support their children at home. As they see you model the activities, I think it has built their confidence so they will try it at home.

“Children are often bringing things in to show me what they have done at home following the ideas given in the sessions.”

Cllr Shaid Mushtaq, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “This is a great example of how we are supporting children from a young age to develop and providing them with the best start in life.

“We are proud that our family hubs offer is helping children in Oldham to learn and develop and families like Joshua’s to bond and thrive.”

Family hubs offer various services, such as health clinics, breastfeeding support, baby play and stay and play sessions and parenting support.