THE first day at a new school is always a tough time but for 11-year-old Ben Morris it is even more of a challenge.

Ben has spinal Muscular Atrophy, which means that his muscles do not receive signals from his brain, so the only part of his body he can move from his neck down is his left thumb.

That has not stopped him being like any other 11-year-old boy, and last week he started his first day at his new secondary school, Commonweal.

The former Westlea Primary School pupil, has been getting stuck in to new subjects such as French and geography and making new friends in his first few days at the school.

Commonweal is adapted to deal with children with disabilities, with 19 disabled pupils, and Ben has two assistants at the school as well as specially designed facilities.

He said: “It has been a good start, but it has been hard.

“It is all a bit new and a bit of a challenge, because the school is bigger and it is an old building so it is a bit cramped but I am enjoying it.

“I have made some new friends which is good.

“Because I am in a wheelchair some people think I need to be treated differently but my friends are not like that, which is nice.

“My favourite subject is science and I am looking forward to the experiments and making explosions.”

“I can’t do a lot of things, like play football, but thanks to my wheelchair it makes it easier. I now play football in my chair.”

Ben’s parents, Doug and Sandra, have their work cut out looking after Ben. His condition means he needs lots of attention and stimulation. He can’t swallow most foods, so he has to be tube fed, and at bedtime he needs to be given oxygen and then turned several times during the night.

In addition to regular hospital check-ups, two or three times a year Ben develops a lung infection which means he has to spend a couple of weeks in hospital each time.

Now that he has started at Commonweal his parents have said that they do not need to worry about him from the moment he leaves on the bus for school until he gets home.

Doug said: “It has been a really good start.

“There were always going to be teething problems, but nothing that can’t be overcome.

“I think it is comforting for us, we don’t worry at all – because of the way the transition has gone we feel totally assured that Ben is okay.

“It is another milestone he has reached that we may have thought would not have happened.

“The nice thing is that he is going to a mainstream school and he is just a normal 11-year-old boy.”