Give a lad a start, Rob and Drew’s story…..

Last summer we had the pleasure of finding out about the nephew of one of our members, Robert Rippon. Drewski quickly captured the attention of our members, regularly getting thousand of reactions to his antics, reported back to Builders’ Talk Group by Rob. Here we find out a bit more about their story…..

After putting a post on the Builders’ Talk Group Facebook page, I was overwhelmed with the response I had regarding me and my nephew Drew, we received over 3000 likes and 500 comments, so I thought I would tell you a bit more about us.

Drew is 17. When he was two weeks old he contracted meningitis and was rushed to intensive care, he was not expected to survive, but he did. He has grown up to be a lovely caring generous boy and we are all very proud of him.


Due to his illness Drew was diagnosed with Autism. For him this means learning difficulties, with a mental age of around 8 years old and a very short term memory, he does retain a lot of memories and its strange some of the things he can remember, but hour to hour, minute to minute is forgotten.


Drew can read and write, his spelling isn’t great but you know what he is writing about, he has trouble counting and adding, we are working on his 2 x tables at the moment, but he is like a sponge, soaking up information about life and work, and one day I’m certain he will remember it.


As for me, I’m Rob Rippon, Drew’s uncle, the builder. I started out in the building game driving my fathers JCB at ten years old and have been working ever since.

My background is as an approved electrician and over the years I have picked up a lot of skills from working with other trades and become a multi trade builder, I was also a service technician for Hotpoint dealing with 50 angry frustrated women a week, that’s character building and you learn a lot of patience…

I have been running my own business for over 23 years and really enjoy the work that I do, most days are different, the projects I get asked to do range from kitchens and bathrooms, to extensions, rewires and I build wooden garden buildings like open barn shelters and timber workshops.

Over the years I have had some help at work in the form of my own sons, I have four, aged 23, 21, 18 and 10. The 2 older boys are in work having completed apprenticeships, one in IT and one as a service technician for Citroen, the third is currently finishing his 2nd year apprenticeship with Land Rover as a service technician, none of them wanted to follow in my footsteps.

I am a firm believer in earn while you learn and apprenticeships are the way to go.

My youngest son is 10 and still at school, all of my boys are busy with their own lives, so now he old enough, its Drew’s turn to help Uncle Robert.

Drew attends a local college learning life skills like counting money, telling the time, animal care and gardening, but Drew’s big passion is landscaping, mostly because you get to use diggers…

This summer, Drew finished college early and both his parents work full time, which meant he would be home alone for a while. He’s self-sufficient and can look after himself but really needs interaction with people, so I asked him to come and work with me.

Because he lives about 20 miles away it made sense for him to to stay with us during the week and go home at weekends. Every morning he’s up, has breakfast and is raring to go – we get in the van and he sings “we’re on the road again” and that’s the start of our day.

Every day is eventful with Drew, I have never laughed so much at work as I have with Drew, I have also noticed the impact he has on the other guys I work with – they love him.

He is a great helper, very strong, probably from all the weight training and exercises he does at home, during his first week with me he was telling me all about his heroes, Connor McGregor, Monty Don & Tommy Walsh.

As a treat I decided to buy him a punch bag and gloves and hang them in the shed, he was over the moon, he’s been in the shed most evenings and occasionally after breakfast banging away at it, he loves Youtube videos and gets top tips on everything, exercise, punching skills and building tips which he likes to share with me all the time.

Last week he was telling me about health and safety and having the correct work clothes, I have given him some ear defenders, gloves and a mask which he wears when we are cutting and sawing etc. While in our local Screwfix he spotted some work shorts he got excited about, so I decided to buy him some, he shot straight out to the van and got changed in the back, then he came strutting back into the store looking like a proper builder, he was grinning from ear to ear, now he won’t take them off and definitely doesn’t want to get them dirty!

Drew loves nothing better than visiting merchants and getting books on tools, his favourite tools are Festool, sadly Uncle Rob doesn’t own any Festool….

While we are at work, I take the time to show him things and teach him what I am doing, he loves counting and we are working on counting in 2’s. I have also been teaching him to use a tape measure using cm. At first he couldn’t remember what I showed him so every hour we would get the tape out and measure something, all of a sudden something clicked and he got it, it was amazing to watch him, the joy on his face was fantastic, that was it, he was off measuring everything, I lost him for ten minutes, he was down the garden measuring the clients shed. When he went home he drove his mum (my sister) mad, measuring everything and trying to teach her how to read a tape, it’s like no one else can do it and he has to show them.


I have enjoyed working with Drew so much that I shared my day on the Builders’ Talk Group Facebook page. The response was amazing, with some fantastic comments and good advice, one piece of advice was for Drew to use notebooks to write things down so he can remember things, this has proved to be a game changer for Drew.

My wife bought Drew 2 notebooks and his own tape measure, he uses one to write a diary of what we have done in the day, and in the other one he writes down things that I send him to fetch from the van.

Before the notebooks, Drew would go to the van to fetch something, by the time he had got there he had forgotten what he had gone for, often bringing random things back in the hope that it was the right thing, I would either shout out the window giving him directions or go myself.

Now, he comes back with the tools hidden behind his back, he pretends that he hasn’t found them, then, “Surprise, look what I’ve got!” with a huge grin on his face, he gets it right most times now, roll on the summer.

I thoroughly enjoy my days at work with Drew, the jobs take a bit longer than usual, but I don’t mind, it’s worth it to see him learning simple things that we take for granted.

Drew has grown up watching all the old comedy shows, some of the things he says during the day have me in stitches, we will be eating lunch and he starts laughing, he laughs so much his sides hurt, and I know what he’s thinking and then he says it, “Sammy the Snake.” It’s a reference to Phoenix Night’s bouncy castle, you’ve got to see it but when you do, think of Drew giggling with a sarnie in his mouth… hilarious.


I don’t know what the future will hold for Drew, but I’m determined to give him as much help as I can – he has big ambitions and wants to be a landscape gardener with a truck and trailer with a digger, one day, I hope he succeeds.


Rob Rippon


Thanks for sharing your fun with us all Rob, we are sure we will here more about Drew’s experiences over the coming months, but for now, ‘Cheesy Fingers!’ (if you know, well you know!)

10 thoughts on “Give a lad a start, Rob and Drew’s story…..

  • 26th February 2018 at 9:06 pm

    It’s takes like this from ordinary guys that make Builders Talk Group the greatest group on Facebook

  • Bob Gordon
    27th February 2018 at 8:59 pm

    From the bravery of taking Drewski on to work with you Robert not only have you show your a great uncle but also a very special tradesman. Drewski has grown from the trust you have given him in the six weeks you worked together and boosted his confidence that now there’s no stopping him achieveing his personal goals. Congratulations snd well done to you both.

    • Liz Gribbin
      27th February 2018 at 9:43 pm

      You are right Bob, Rob has shown us all what a top bloke he is, the experience he has given Drew is priceless, not just for Drew but anyone who reads his story.

  • Robert Rippon
    19th April 2018 at 5:28 pm

    A big thanks to the guys for putting this together, it’s humbling to hear so much love and interest that other builders have for shown towards Drew, I feel blessed that I can help him when I can and have the support of you guys.
    Thanks again Rob

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