Buckley parents up in arms as autism centre faces closure

Reporter:

Claire Gallagher

PARENTS fear a unit for children with autism could close

The centre at Buckley’s Westwood School provides help for children from across the region.

Among them is Simon Johnson’s seven-year-old daughter Mollie, who has a severe form of autism.

The unit teaches between eight and 10 children using a specialist method called Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA).

But now an agreement between Flintshire Council, Wrexham Council and Bangor University has ended the future of the unit is up in the air.

Graham Edwards, head of education inclusion at Wrexham Council, said there was ‘little demand’ from parents of autistic children to use the unit.

But Simon, of Spring Gardens, Rhosddu, said: “This is complete rubbish. The place is the jewel in the crown of Flintshire education and I have no idea why they would want to close it.

“Maybe they don’t understand the significance of it.

“Most parents of the children are completely distraught about it. I would be mortified if it were to close.”

Ray Clarke, who founded the unit and is the former chairman of the Wrexham branch of the National Autistic Society (NAS) said he was “saddened” to hear the news.

He said: “It’s a great shame that something is being shelved because of a lack of interest. Are the parents who have children with autism being fully informed of the
benefits of ABA?

“There is no doubt about the benefits of ABA and I am saddened to hear this.”
Janet Ryder, Plaid Cymru AM for North Wales and chairman of the Cross-Party Autism Group in the Assembly, said: “I am very concerned with any reduction in provision for children on the autism spectrum.

“Because of concerns being raised by parents, I am writing to Flintshire Council to ask why the council is changing provision.

“If children with autism have to look for alternatives in the private sector, that is totally unacceptable. Education should be provided in the public sector and that applies equally for all children.”

Mr Edwards said in a statement issued by Wrexham Council: “The original service level agreement between Flintshire, Wrexham and Bangor University which saw the establishment of the ABA class at Westwood School Buckley has ended.

“There is little demand from parents of autistic children in Wrexham for an ABA-type approach and from September 2010 we shall only have one pupil at the school.

“The two members of staff were employees of the university and their contracts have ended with the end of the SLA.”

Meanwhile, a Flintshire Council spokesman said: “We can confirm that the provision at the autism centre at Buckley Westwood under review.

“This is part of an overall review of service level agreements within resource centres across the authority.

“The centre will continue to operate whilst the review is undertaken.”

See full story in the Leader

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