From loneliness and missed experiences as a family and with friends to the strongest of bonds, the sister of a Prior’s Court young person has lifted the lid on life as the sibling of someone with complex autism.

Kaitlin Lawrence’s brother Jamie, 19, has been living and learning full-time at Prior’s Court since he was 13, after being taken into care at the age of 10 due to the nature of his autism leading to aggressive behaviours towards his family.

Kaitlin, 21, is now appearing in a new short film where she explains the impact of not being able to have a “normal” sibling relationship, the loneliness that comes from being the only child left in the family home when a sibling is taken into care, and the pangs of envy of seeing and hearing of the family experiences of her peers.

Watch the film below:

Kaitlin has also written more extensively about her family’s story, detailing:

  • Fears over not wanting childhood friends to visit her family’s home due to them seeing “what Jamie was like”.
  • How it was impossible to go out as a family to play centres or go on holidays, and also only being able to have extracurricular activities with one parent at a time as the other was needed to look after Jamie
  • The strains of having a relationship with a sibling when they live apart from the family home, particularly with holding conversations with Jamie who has echolalia (meaning he repeats, out of context, word and phrases he has heard elsewhere).

But Kaitlin also speaks about the incredible bond she now has with “her best friend” and her pride in him.

"This short film is about shining a light"

Kaitlin, a student at the University of Exeter, said: “The impact on someone like Jamie moving into residential care at such a young age is huge. Even though somewhere like Prior’s Court is the perfect place for Jamie to be, being away from our parents and me as his sister is very challenging for him.

“But it also has a tremendous impact on those of us left in the family home. This short film is about shining a light on that - telling other people who may find themselves in my shoes that they are not alone and telling my story to those without knowledge of complex autism.

“What I’m keen for people in my situation to know is that it is mentally and emotionally really challenging and it is a devastating thing to go through as a child. Even now, there is part of me that wishes I could have had that “normal” sibling relationship. But, you can find a way and come out with an incredible bond that is truly special.”

Arts centre appeal backing

Kaitlin also appeared with her mother and father in another film where they explain their backing for Prior’s Court’s Let Me Shine Performing Arts Centre appeal, which is seeking £900,000 to support the build of the innovative and bespoke arts centre.

In his time at Prior’s Court, Jamie has been able to experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities through the arts. These include recording an “anthem for autism” called Let Me Shinere-recording the song at the world-famous Abbey Road Studios, and performing on-stage at music festivals with the Prior’s Court Band.

In the arts centre film, Jamie’s family, who live in Guildford, explain how the centre would be so important for Jamie and young people like him.

Prior’s Court’s ambition is to use the centre to research best practice around providing support to access the arts, and sharing these learnings with others in the education and performing arts sectors for the benefit of people with autism, and their families, across the country and beyond.

For more information, see the fundraising section of our website or the accompanying appeal video.