Dad fights for autistic child
A meeting with Hollywood star Jenny McCarthy has inspired Kiwi singer Geoff Sewell in his fight to help his daughter overcome autism.
When Sienna Sewell was born to Geoff and his wife Simone Lanham five years ago, they thought she was perfect.
That hasn’t changed, but their world was turned upside down when at three years old she was diagnosed with autism.
Sufferers have major problems communicating and learning.
Geoff and Simone had no prior knowledge of the condition, and were told by the doctor that Sienna wouldn’t talk, and wouldn’t look people in the eye.
“They gave us no avenue for hope. You don’t expect the doctor to give you a life sentence for your child,” says Geoff, the former Amici singer who is now based in London.
But the couple didn’t accept that she wouldn’t be able to speak, and began a course of treatment for their little girl that included a cocktail of vitamin supplements and advanced behavioural analysis therapy.
They have also put Sienna on a strict gluten and dairyfree diet.
Geoff and Simone recently attended the Defeat Autism Now convention in Philadelphia, where there were 1200 people “in the same boat”, says Geoff.
While at the conference they met autism activist McCarthy, who helped her son Evan recover from the condition, and has written books on autism.
Her partner actor Jim Carrey is also an autism campaigner.
“It was amazing, she was an incredible speaker,” says Geoff.
Through one-on-one contact with a teacher aide and biomedical intervention Sienna is speaking, can dress herself and has become toilet trained.
She started school six weeks ago.
“School helps her interact socially,” says Geoff.
Sienna’s cousin Sophia Dawson has been great support.
“She and Sienna have developed a very special bond, and she too is helping to fundraise and boost the profile of autism.”
Geoff, whose parents live on the North Shore, last month launched his solo album Believe.
He arrived in New Zealand last week and performed with Dancing with the Stars winner Temepara George at Westfield Albany on Tuesday.
Her chosen charity was autism.
Geoff is using the album release to raise autism awareness, and one of the tracks, Sienna’s Song, was written by Simone and dedicated to their little angel.
“It’s an anthem of love.”
Special bond: Geoff Sewell with Sienna, 5.
Hollywood inspiration: Geoff Sewell and his wife Simone Lanham with star Jenny McCarthy, centre, at the Philadelphia convention.