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Parents of autistic children get answers

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County Hall

County Hall

A LOCAL parent has expressed her concerns and frustration over the provision for education from Pembrokeshire County Council (PCC) for those on the Autistic spectrum. Speaking with The Herald, Lisa O’Sullivan recounted her personal experience with PCC over her son James: “He is clever, but autistic, and cannot mix with peers or indeed people he doesn’t know. He was capable of GCSE’s but he has anxiety issues associated with autism. He went to Bush in September 2011, initially to have 60% in mainstream and 40% in the autism centre, and was fine, but he started attending the autism unit more as he started absconding.

“By October he couldn’t cope and I was attending constant meetings with the school and PCC in order to find a solution. They didn’t understand him, the transition wasn’t done properly, and they weren’t aware James was a ‘runner’ before he went from primary to secondary school. He lasted there until April 2012 and then was pulled out of the school (the school with a dedicated autism centre!) at this point he was at home, with no support and no academic work at all, with no offer of another school (but then why would he when he was already at the autism centre?). He had no books or anything.” After calling every week, Lisa O’Sullivan said she finally had a tutor appointed for her son at the end of the school year in 2012.

She explained that initially he had 7 hours of tuition a week which was recently changed this year to 5, as he now attends a half day at the school. She continued: “He is too stressed to go on his own so I have to go with him. He has come on well with the tutor but he has missed so much school he is now miles behind. Isn’t the specialised unit supposed to know how to deal with pupils like James? I question the idea that he is only entitled to five hours of tutoring a week. What is James supposed to do know he has missed so much schooling?” The Herald spoke exclusively with PCC’s Head of Inclusion, Nichola Jones, who opened her response by defending the autism unit at Bush, and provision generally, as well as the rigorous training available to Pembrokeshire’s education providers for children with ASD: “The needs of youngsters with ASD vary widely, with some youngsters able to lead relatively independent lives whilst others needing a much more intense package of support. Each child’s needs are met individually.

The local authority work with families, schools and young people to put in place the best possible package of provision. The local authority have recently appointed a speech and language therapist to take forward ASD provision together with three outreach support workers. “The team will be fully up and running in January 2014 and will work closely with the specialist communication outreach team consisting of a teacher, three teaching assistants and three speech and language therapists. There are 24 specialist places currently available for children at key stage one and two, and a further 30 places for children and young people at key stage three and four. “The secondary specialist provision will also be providing outreach support to neighbouring secondary schools. The special school provides specialist outreach support and provision for more complex youngsters.

An annual programme of training and development takes place throughout the year to help schools and parents support children and young people with ASD. “The introduction of the ASD friendly school training is being rolled out to all schools providing training in relation to the impact on young people as well as strategies for reducing environmental triggers. The roll out in November of this year of the early screening pack for nursery aged children provides schools with the tools for identifying children whose communication skills are delayed or unusual as well as interventions and where appropriate an onward referral to specialist services. An ASD training and resource pack has also been developed for schools and is being launched in the New Year providing schools with a range of advice, guidance and intervention approaches throughout the key stages.”

She was also keen to point out how PCC were effective in inclusion, stating: “Schools and the Inclusion Service within Education in Pembrokeshire work very hard to ensure that agencies work together to meet the holistic needs of the child wherever possible. Frequently this involves staff speaking to social care, youth workers, sports clubs and the voluntary sector to try and co-ordinate support for young people (with parental and child’s consent where appropriate).” The Herald was also keen to know what the procedure of diagnosis was, given the complaints of many parents that it took simply too long to obtain. Nichola Jones said: “In the past the waiting time for an assessment has been up to five years. This has been reduced considerably in the last year and is currently around 26 months. Early screening tools and a building capacity programme for schools is providing school staff with the right approaches for supporting children and young people who have ASD traits without a formalised assessment.”

She also commented on Lisa O’Sullivan’s concerns about how her son’s transition was handled: “Transition ordinarily takes place through the school ALNCO and for more complex youngsters a key worker is currently employed by the local authority to work with schools, families and the young person to ensure the best possible transition between key stages.” Finally she commented upon the provision of education, once the child has been excluded from mainstream, and though she did not address the meagre 5 hours James O’Sullivan receives, she did say: “The Local Authority has a duty to provide an ‘efficient’ education which meets the age, aptitude and ability of the child in agreement with the parent.” Of concern to parents, may be, the the statistic from the most recent Inclusion Services Annual Report that stated that over 16% of Pembrokeshire families wait for over half a year for a statement. This means that children who go to school in September do not receive a statement until the following March or April.

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A40 closed at Scleddau due to collision between car and motorbike

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EMERGENCY SERVICES have shut the A40 at in Scleddau due to a serious road collision.

The accident happened just before 2pm. The Herald understands that the collision involved a motorcycle and car at a junction near The Gate Inn public house.

Police said: “Emergency services are currently on scene and dealing with the incident. Please find an alternative route if possible. Update to follow.”

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Moley’s Ambassador March to support those who have lost a child

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ON SATURDAY (Jun 19), Andrew Cole (aka Moley) will set off on a 24 hour walk around Pembrokeshire with the aim of doing as many miles in as little time as possible. 

Moley is proud to have recently been made ambassador of the charity ‘2 Wish UponAa Star’ an organisation dedicated to supporting families that have lost a child under 25 years of age.

He will be setting off at 6am in the morning from Neyland and walking all day and night, finishing at 6am the following morning.

2 wish upon a star was set up by Rhian Mannings, who set up the charity after losing her own son.

By celebrating the lives of those lost, and offering support to families through their grief; Rhian and her team offer an essential service to the community and those families who have suffered the devastation of losing a loved one.

Appealing for support from the people of Pembrokeshire he said: “Please give generously to support the wonderful work of Rhian and her team. Also, if you happen to see me in the day, feel free to give me a beep of encouragement’

“If you would like to donate to Moley, and support the charity, you can visit his JustGiving page.”

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/moleycole

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Lifeboats and chopper in major air sea rescue off the coast of Tenby

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TWO RNLI lifeboats from both Tenby and Angle stations have been launched to assist a coastguard helicopter which has been scrambled from MOD St Athen.

It is understood that a search for a missing person or persons is underway.

Paged this morning: Angle Lifeboat is currently involved in the search south of Tenby

The alarm was raised before 10am this morning (June 18).

Tenby’s Y-boat is also involved in the operation, The Herald understands.

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Rescue underway: Coastguard chopper position at 1030HRS on Friday, Jun 18 (Pic MarineTraffic)
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