Battle is on to save Flintshire autism ABA centre

Reporter:

Lois Hough

A FIGHT to save a centre for autistic children is gathering pace.

The closure of the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) centre at Westwood Primary School, Buckley, will hinge on crunch talks with governors and staff.

The centre, which offers one-to-one care for six children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, costs £240,000 a year to run in a joint operation with Wrexham Council.

Education chiefs claim the service is outdated and say there are better facilities for autistic children at a new special school in Flint.

But more than 300 people have so far joined ‘Please help support the ABA class’ on the social networking site, Facebook.

Eight-year-old Michael Gaskell-Littlewood, from Acrefair, Wrexham, was diagnosed with autism aged three and spent five years attending the ABA centre.

His mother Nicola, 44, says he is a changed little boy.

She told the Leader: “Before Michael went to ABA class, he was practically non-verbal and his behaviour was pretty bad.

“We couldn’t take him into a shop without him screaming or throwing a tantrum and he would only eat a limited number of foods.

“Now you would never tell he has autism. He is a happy, loving, chatty and clever young man who enriches everyone he meets.

“These wonderful and dedicated people at the ABA class worked tirelessly with Michael day-in day-out for four years and basically gave us our son back.”

Michael, whose two-year-old brother Stanley has also been diagnosed with autism, now attends a specialist unit at Rofft Primary School in Marford.

The siblings’ father Miles is concerned that Stanley will not have the same standard of education if the ABA centre closes.

He said: “Our dream would be for him to go to Westwood ABA unit and receive the very special care and education his brother enjoyed.

“It’s hard for anyone, unless they live with or work with a child with autism, to really understand how life-changing ABA can be.

“Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of alternatives and it’s very concerning.”

A report presented to Flintshire Council’s executive committee said there has been “limited” opportunity for children to integrate into mainstream classrooms.

Principal learning adviser Jeanette Rock wrote: “The school does not consider itself to be in a position to increase integration at present due to the complex needs of the pupils.”

Eight-year-old Mollie Johnson from Rhosddu, Wrexham, has been attending the ABA centre for four years.

Her father Simon, who is on the board of governors at Westwood Primary School, and mother Claire, a sister at Wrexham Maelor Hospital, have secured a classroom and two ABA therapists at St Christopher’s School, Wrexham, should the centre in Buckley close.

Claire, 35, said: “Mollie was a very angry and confused child who was quite lost.

“Now she sits down and works in school all day with a one-to-one therapist.

“She talks in sign language and knows 35 signs to communicate with us what she wants.

“Had she not had ABA therapy, she would still be a lost little child. ABA therapy works for Molly and it is superb.”

The couple, who also have a five-year-old daughter Daisy, say closing the centre is a short-term solution to save money.

Claire added: “Flintshire Council may be saving £240,000 on the short-term but they will pay out more in the long run because early intervention is key. They are being very short-sighted. All we are asking for is the right to education.”

Education chiefs say they will attempt to redeploy staff but redundancies will not be ruled out. Objectors to the closure have until April 15 to send their concerns to County Hall.

If plans are approved the centre will close in September.

- What do you think? Let us know at www.leaderlive.co.uk

See full story in the Leader

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on

Characters left: 1500

Most Read