It all began back on the morning of the 15thDecember 2015. Hayden, then aged 5, and his mum Caroline were glued to their TV. Astronaut Tim Peake was preparing to blast off on a very important mission to the International Space Station. The day was to be momentous for a second reason - Major Peake was about to become the very first British Astronaut to reach the ISS. Lots of people were watching but perhaps none more closely than Hayden.
As millions of people The countdown began “10, 9, 8, 7…” and then suddenly, something very unexpected happened which stunned Caroline: Hayden joined in the countdown. You see, up until that moment, Hayden had been non-verbal, relying on a series of printed cards to help him communicate. The spark that Tim Peake’s Principia mission ignited, opened-up new worlds for Hayden - now diagnosed with autism and ADHD - triggering an interest in all things space-related.
Delighted that Hayden is making such great progress - next stop Mars for that brave young lad!
Hayden explains what spurred his immediate fascination with all things space:
“Astronauts helped me learn more about our planet, how beautiful it is from space, how important it is to take care of it. One day my dream is to go to space, to the moon or to mars.”
Hayden didn’t realise that the Principa mission was historical for a second reason – joining Tim Peake aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz was none other than Stargazer Lottie! Inspired by a six-year-old girl called Abigail and produced in collaboration with the European Space Agency, Lottie was making a place for herself in the history books by becoming the first doll in space.
Tim Peake with Astro Adventure Lottie
It seems only fitting then, that Hayden has now inspired an addition to the Lottie Dolls’ range. Loyal Companion Finn has been developed to reflect the Lottie vision: that childhood should be an inclusive place, where every child belongs regardless of gender, ethnicity or ability. The set will include communication cards, ear defenders and an assistance puppy with a blue bandana. The bandana’s colour helps to signpost that the dog has been trained to support a child with autism. The doll is dressed in Hayden's signature blue flight jumpsuit complete with badges. A second outfit is also included with Jeans, silver sneakers and a teeshirt, the names on the teeshirt were selected from a competition naming famous people with Autism.
Autism is a very complex neurological condition in which the receptors of the brain do not function as they do with most people. Thought processes can be interrupted or happen too fast making it difficult for the person in question to concentrate on one thing at a time. Interaction with others can be affected, but not always. Learning difficulties can be experienced but not always. Issues with communication can be present but again not always. The condition can be summed up perfectly thus: "You meet one person with Autism, you meet one person with Autism. No two people are the same". We are learning more and more about the condition every day.
What we do know is that people with autism can develop and learn when provided with the right level of support. Each has his or her own strengths and weaknesses and have, like any of us, a great deal of potential to become someone truly remarkable.
ToyLikeMe, a UK non-profit company who campaign for a broader range of toys in both ability and ethnicity so that children can see themselves reflected in the toys they play with, were eager to support the development. Founder Rebecca Atkinson said, “When I became a mum myself, I wanted the global toy industry to act, to better represent the 150 million children worldwide with disability and difference.”
Hayden visits Team Lottie's office earlier this year!
Dr Sian Jones, a psychologist from Goldsmiths, University of London has conducted several in depth studies into the effects of playing with toys with disability and difference on the attitudes of children without either. Interviewing hundreds of children, she found that after playing with toys like the Loyal Companion Finn Doll, children were much more open to forming friendships with peers they might previously have considered as being ‘different’.
Hayden has met with many astros within the space industry, professors, scientists, goes to lots of events and did media work.. But one thing he loves and only thing he has imaginative play with is the@Lottie_dollscrew#DESTEMChatpic.twitter.com/msAQDz9j8V
Everyone who hears Hayden's story is easily captivated by it - none more so than his heroes themselves. Since 2015, Hayden has garnered the attention and praise of some of the most famous astronauts and physicists in the business including French Astronaut Claudie Haigneré.
When he's not spending his time rubbing shoulders with his heroes, Hayden busies himself encouraging others to explore the wonder and mystery of space. He is a member of The Mars Generation which aims to generate and promote interest in space exploration. He is one of the youngest space ambassador students in the world.
Here's Hayden explaining how astronauts use towels in space:
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