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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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Pembroke Dock: Two in hospital following Fort Road car accident

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EMERGENCY SERVICES dealt with what has been described by a witness as a “horrific car accident” in the Pembroke Dock area on Wednesday night (Jun 12).

A 23-year-old woman, driving a black BMW, travelled down Fort Road at speed, hit a low wall, catapulting the vehicle some considerable distance across a picnic area. The vehicle ended up irreparably damaged on the beach – which was luckily not in use at the time – landing next to the old Cambridge Gun Tower.

No other vehicles seem to have been involved, police said.

The driver has been arrested but remains in hospital, one passenger is in a critical but stable condition, in Cardiff, and a second passenger sustained only minor injuries.

A spokesperson for Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 10.45pm on Wednesday night (Jun 23), to reports of a road traffic accident near the Fort Road car park in Pembroke Dock.

“We attended the scene with one rapid response vehicle, two emergency ambulances and our Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service.

“Two people were taken to University Hospital Wales, Cardiff for further treatment.”

The police are appealing in the media for information following the crash.

An official statement from the police reads as follows: “We were called to Fort Road, Pembroke Dock, at around 10.45pm on Wednesday night to reports of a single-vehicle collision. Ambulance and fire service also attended.

“A 19-year-old man was taken to the Heath Hospital in Cardiff and remains in a critical but stable condition.

“A second passenger attended hospital for minor injuries but has since been discharged. A 23-year-old woman was arrested, and currently remains in hospital.

“Anyone who witnessed the collision but who has not yet spoken to us should get in touch by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, visiting our website, or calling 101.

UPDATE: 24.06.2021, 15:47HRS

On Thursday (Jun 24) said that the female who was arrested was de-arrested because of the need for medical treatment, and is “no longer under arrest at this time.”

The police also added that their investigation was “still active”.

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Pembrokeshire call handler helps deliver Llanelli couple’s new baby

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A 999 CALL HANDLER from Pembrokeshire has helped deliver a Llanelli couple’s baby.

Father-of-two Chris Bassett, from Hook, answered the call from the Trust’s Clinical Contact Centre in Carmarthen, and whose instructions on loudspeaker enabled the pair to deliver their 8lb 1oz new arrival safely.

Thanks to Chris, Troy Smith, 34, and partner Abigail Jones, 33, delivered baby Arabella Dilys Smith in the bedroom of their Llanelli home.

Troy said: “I’ve never felt adrenaline like it but I knew I had to focus on the situation for Abigail and the baby’s sake.

“It all happened so quickly, but Chris’ voice on the other end of the phone kept us calm.”

Abigail, a teacher at Ysgol Carreg Hir in Briton Ferry, went into labour at around 10.00pm on Thursday, June 3, and made a trip to hospital, where nurses confirmed she was in the early stages.

The couple returned to their Pwll home, but their soon-to-be daughter had other ideas.

Troy said: “At around 4.30am, Abigail developed a lot of pain and said she had an urge to push.

“I thought, ‘Right, this is happening’ and phoned an ambulance because I knew I’d be delivering the baby right there and then.”

It was Chris, a former RAF Aerospace Systems Operator, who picked up the call in the early hours of Friday, June 4.

The 29-year-old, who has been with the Welsh Ambulance Service for 18 months, said: “As soon as I answered the call, it was obvious that Troy and Abigail were in distress, as anyone would be in that situation.

“The priority was to get Abigail in a comfortable position to deliver the baby safely.

“For me, it was about giving them clear instructions while trying to keep them both calm.”

Troy added: “I just did what came naturally. When you’re in that situation, you just do it.

“As soon as Arabella came, I felt this wave of relief and I just couldn’t believe how gorgeous she was.

“Chris was so professional and handled the situation really well.

“He gave us all the information and kept us calm.”

Ambulance crews arrived soon after, and took Abigail to Carmarthen’s Glangwili General Hospital, where she was treated for shock before being discharged the following day.

Abigail said: “The whole thing was petrifying because I just never expected to be having the baby at home, but we’re so grateful to Chris for helping us to deliver Arabella safely.”

Chris added: “In your role as a 999 call handler, you’re helping people in their darkest hour, but I’m just glad this call had a happy ending.

“This is the third baby I’ve helped to deliver during my time at the ambulance service, but the first one I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

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Covid causes partial school closure at Haverfordwest High VC

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A PARTIAL school closure is in force today at Haverfordwest High VC school after a pupil in year 9 has tested positive for coronavirus.

All students in year 9 must stay at home , isolate and await further instruction while the school completes all of the necessary Track and Trace processes.

In a statement released by the school, they said: “We have been informed that a Year 9 pupil has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We wish them a speedy recovery.

“As a precautionary measure and to enable us to complete all of the necessary Track and Trace processes, the school will be closed to Year 9 Pupils today.

“The school remains open to all other year groups.

“Until further notice, Year 9 students should stay at home and isolate until further instructions are given. Lessons for all other year groups will continue as usual. Unless your child is in Year 9 they should attend school.”

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