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Specialist college launches autism educational centre

A new autism educational centre has been launched by North Yorkshire’s only specialist college for those with educational support needs and disabilities.

The Starting Point has been developed as part of Henshaws College’s extended provision for learners with more profound needs and will cater for both residential and day students.

More than 50 visitors at Thursday’s launch (2 July) heard from Principal Angela North about the wide-ranging needs of autistic students and from parent Barbara Grant about the importance of treating every learner as an individual.

Autistic learners can have very different needs to other students and, with this in mind, the College has adapted a building to cater for up to six residential learners, although a limited number of day student places are also available. They will benefit from a low arousal environment and positive, structured educational pathway throughout their day, continuing into the home.

Staff at Henshaws College, which works with young people from 16 to 25, already have extensive experience of working with learners with autism and have seen the numbers growing. Autism can sometimes go undiagnosed because of other physical or learning disabilities.

Development Officer Paul Astick said:

Autism can be a hidden disability. Often a student’s primary disability will take precedence but recognising that a learner has autism is very important in helping them to achieve their potential and as great a level of independence as possible.

Already, more than 90 per cent of staff at Henshaws College, from the principal to the maintenance team, have training in working with learners with autism.

Principal Angela North said:

We are committed to finding the best possible way to equip, empower and enable our graduates to progress along their individual pathway towards independence.

Their individual needs can vary widely but there are elements, such as over stimulation of the senses, that apply specifically to learners with autism and because of this we felt very strongly that we should make special provision for those who face the challenges of autism.

Henshaws Specialist College would not have been able to undertake this project without the valued support of its funders including The Education Funding Agency, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, The Equitable Charitable Trust, The Baily Thomas Charitable Fund, The ACT Foundation and Henshaws Yorkshire Events Committee. These financial contributions will continue to have a life-changing impact on students in years to come.

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