The parents of Daniel Bradley, who was killed in a road crash in Maghera, have called for a greater understanding and awareness of autism – which affects so many children in Northern Ireland.
The Bradley family home is one steeped in grief, just a day after their only son was buried.
The eight-year-old was knocked down and killed near the entrance to a service station on the Glenshane Road at around 8pm on Thursday.
Daniel’s mum Janice, who was in the shop buying a few groceries for school lunches, ran to try and help him but he died instantly.
His father James, a well known musician arrived a short time later. In the ambulance they both cradled their only son in their arms and whispered goodbye.
“I got to spend time with him whenever he passed and that was the most important thing that we had that time. We told him we loved him and we knew he was at peace,” James said.
Daniel lived in his own world but had his own way of communicating with his family.
“He used sort of sign language, as we called it, our own sign language, he would say ‘I love you’, and we quickly worked on that,” Janice explained.
James added: “It was amazing to see that because although he couldn’t say it in sentences, you knew whenever he did that that you felt that and you could hear his voice.”
Daniel loved the trampoline, music and his three sisters who loved to make videos with him like this one. Daniel had an assist dog Ebony who slept on his bed and hasn’t eaten since his death.
Janice continued: “He was amazing, absolutely amazing. I can safely say I’m so proud to be called his mother, he was just a joy to be around. When he had a good day, he had a really good day and when he had a bad day, they were really bad.”
“But he always kissed you at the end of the evening. He always went ‘I love you’,” James added.
The couple say it’s vital there there is a better understanding and awareness of autism in Northern Ireland.
“If anybody out there knows a parent or a family with autism, lift the phone this evening, ask them if they need a hand or help,” James said.
Janice added: “Or don’t even ask, just call in and try and spend time with that child, ask them to parties, Daniel never got invited nowhere. Or when he did get invited he tended to be isolated among the kids.
Just last week James recorded a video of Daniel singing his favourite Coldplay song, and posted it online in tribute to his son. On Sunday it was the song playing as his white coffin left a packed St Patrick’s Church.
Daniel was buried in his Peter Pan costume and a close family friend penned a eulogy to him telling mourners that when his parents look into the night and see a shooting star so bright, “that Dan the Man and Peter Pan have just taken flight”.