I was two years old when my parents introduced me to my new baby brother, Nick. I can't exactly recall my feelings and reaction - I was too young - but from looking at pictures taken around that time and from speaking to my parents, I think I generally liked and accepted the idea of having a younger sibling. Although I did experience the usual jealously that older children feel towards what they consider as direct competition for their parent's attention. And was, I'm ashamed to say, caught poking, pinching and teasing him a few times in his first year!
I'm told Nick was a very docile child - no crying, no temper tantrums. Every parent's dream really. But after a while this lack of activity became indicative of a problem with his development and started to become a worry for my mum and dad.
Nick wasn't attempting to talk, crawl or walk. He was floppy, and had no reflexes, and my parents had no idea why.
I don't remember being worried. Not only was I too young to appreciate what was going on, but, jealousy aside, I was generally revelling in having a new and very compliant play mate. I would put Nick in my doll's buggy and push him around the garden, I'd prop him up with cushions and play games with him; overall I liked having a little brother to play with and boss around.
Around this time my parents took Nick to see a doctor and he was diagnosed as being brain damaged, most probably due to oxygen deprivation at birth.
This made sense to them. The birth had been difficult, ending up with my mother being sedated and my father being forced out of the room as chaos erupted. But despite all of the obvious panic, Nick had been handed over to my father afterwards without comment. Nobody mentioned the fact that he had almost definitely been brain damaged by what had just occurred, and my parents took him home blissfully unaware of any problems.
We'll never know exactly what happened, by the time we found out about Nick's condition, the hospital had closed down and any medical notes relating to Nick had been destroyed.
But regardless of how and why it happened there was nothing anyone could do about it. All my parents could do now was to work out what to do next - no mean feat given the complete lack of support and guidance on offer.
The first time they came up against this was when the doctors who had diagnosed Nick as brain damaged informed them that he would never walk or talk - case closed.
My parents suspected that this was not true, and that he was being written off as not worth the effort of physiotherapy and treatment - they were right, but more of that later.
It was clear that it would be down to us, as a family, to develop Nick to his full potential.