New specialist resource base for young people with autism opens in Dereham

A new specialist resource base to help young people with autism from across Norfolk was described by an international speaker on autism as 'wonderful and fantastic.'

Ros Blackburn, 42, who was diagnosed as severely autistic as an infant, untied a ribbon to officially open the centre at Dereham Neatherd High School.

It will cater for 10 students aged 11-16 from around the county and among the features are a classroom, lounge, chill out room and outside area.

The young people will have their own programmes of support and will spend varying times in the main school for lessons and will use the resource base as a 'safe haven' and to learn social and life skills.

The base is staffed with a teacher (head of specialist resource base) and two higher level teaching assistants, all with experience, training and skills in teaching children with autism spectrum conditions.

Ros said: 'It is utterly essential to have autistic children with their peer groups. I am very, very honoured and privileged to open the base.'

After the opening, Ros gave a talk at the school entitled Logically Illogical, in which she gave an insight in to her own world of autism.

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Head of the resource base Sally McDermott said: 'Many young people with autism struggle to cope with the demands of a busy high school, and can develop high anxiety and depression, which can lead to them unable to attend school. It's exciting to finally have specialist provision designed specifically for young people with autism who need help to access a mainstream curriculum, and require additional specialist teaching, support and facilities to enable them to gain the social and life skills required to live independently in society.'

Neatherd headteacher Peter Devonish said: 'I have always been a believer in fully inclusive comprehensive education. As a school we have continued to develop this ethos which has changed considerably over my time at Neatherd. Over three years in development, our resource base for autism has been something I wished for the school and our community. I have been fortunate to have had the full support of staff and governors at every stage. The base is a part of our school community and children within it will benefit from inclusion in our school as our young people will benefit from our school looking after children with autism. I could not have hoped for better staff for our base. I am extremely proud of this provision which will benefit young people in our community now and for many years into the future.'