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Autistic teenager who had to leave Norwich college after admission mix-up flourishing in new start

PUBLISHED: 17:38 13 December 2017 | UPDATED: 19:40 13 December 2017

James Parker is now a student at the St Ed's Society.
With mum Emma.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017

James Parker is now a student at the St Ed's Society. With mum Emma. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

A teenage boy with autism who was forced to leave a new college after being wrongly given a place is flourishing after a new start.

James Parker is now a student at the St Ed's Society.
Lorraine Bliss, Tara Bliss-Appleton, Nicky Wright, Emma and James Parker.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017James Parker is now a student at the St Ed's Society. Lorraine Bliss, Tara Bliss-Appleton, Nicky Wright, Emma and James Parker. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

In September, James Parker, 16, was asked not to return to City College Norwich (CCN) after a mix-up with his application.

At home and fearful over his future, mum Emma, 40, said it was a “devastating” time for the family.

But James has just finished his second week at the Norwich-based St Edmunds Society, a training centre where he is now on a programme, which includes construction, painting and decorating and mechanics, for three days a week.

The teenager said the new placement was “awesome”, and said what had happened had left him “really upset”.

James Parker is now a student at the St Ed's Society.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017James Parker is now a student at the St Ed's Society. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

And his mum, of Beverley Road in Earlham, said: “It’s amazing - we have gone full circle. They have picked him up and they have shown him there is a future, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

“It shows people do want you even though you have got a disability. He’s been in his element and his confidence has grown hugely - I don’t know where it’s come from.”

MORE: Autistic Norwich teenager told to leave college after one week after admission error

James Parker is now a student at the St Ed's Society.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017James Parker is now a student at the St Ed's Society. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

She said she had been inundated with messages from other families with children with complex needs.

“I’ve probably only been through a quarter of what I’ve had - it’s so, so sad,” she said.

“Every family sees the potential in their children but you have to fight to make other people see that. Parents should fight for what they believe in and fight for their children.

“James comes with paperwork and sometimes people read that and don’t see the person behind it.”

At the centre, which worked with Norfolk County Council, it was Tara Bliss-Appleton, Mark Anderson and Nicky Wright who made sure James secured a place.

Mrs Bliss-Appleton, a welfare support manager and qualified social worker, said: “Right from the start, when I heard about the story I felt quite passionately that I wanted to help James.”

She said they were working to integrate James into groups and build his confidence.

“He has changed massively in the time since I went to see the family,” she said. “He was highly anxious, couldn’t really give us eye contact. You could tell what had happened had affected how he perceived himself, but his confidence has flourished.”

At the time, CCN offered its “unreserved apologies” to the family.

Ms Parker’s original Facebook post asking for help with James’ situation attracted more than 13,500 shares.

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