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A BOY who was unable to talk for the first years of his life is raising awareness about the treatment that helped him say his first words.

Jack Neighbour, from Rayleigh, was diagnosed with neonatal diabetes at 6 months.

This meant the 14-year-old, who attends Cedar Hall School in Thundersley, could not speak and was only able to communicate with his family with picture cards for the first five years of his life.

However, just six weeks after a genetic test by researchers at the University of Exeter, Jack was able to switch his treatment from insulin injections to tablets, and he spoke his first words in a matter of weeks.

Family life was soon transformed from a “living nightmare”

to a home filled with laughter as Jack’s diabetes became easier to control.

Now, mum Emma Matthews wants to tell her story so families in similar situations will have hope.

She said: “About a month after switching the treatment, I went to pick him up from school.

“He came to me with this big smile on his face and said ‘hello mummy’. This is the first thing he even said to me. It was the best day of my life.”

Mrs Matthews came across the treatment after a relative read an article about a boy who was diagnosed by medics at the University of Exeter.

She contacted the research team, who diagnosed Jack and switched his treatment.

The mother-of-two is now hoping her son’s story will help benefit other families in similar situations.

She said: “Not many people know about this treatment, not even my own doctor knewabout it. But it changed our lives forever, and I’m hoping to raise awareness about it.

“The more people know about it, the better.”

Neonatal diabetes is diagnosed in the first six months of a baby’s life and is associated with complications such as severe learning difficulties.

It is caused by a change in a gene which affects insulin which means that levels of blood glucose in the body rise dangerously high.

However, the change in medication significantly improved Jack’s blood sugar levels.

Professor Sian Ellard from the University added: “It’s always extremely gratifying and humbling to see firsthand that research by the team at the University of Exeter Medical School is yielding real benefits to families.

“In many cases, their diagnosis and the switch from insulin injections to tablets have improved blood sugar levels and allow them to eat normaly.”