Protestors in bid to halt Flintshire autism unit closure plans

Reporter:

Lois Hough

PROTESTORS will descend on County Hall in Mold today in an attempt to halt the closure of a specialist autism centre.

The closure of the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) centre at Westwood Primary School in Buckley will hinge on crunch talks with governors and staff which have been ongoing since March.

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Education chiefs claim the service is outdated and say there are better facilities for autistic children at a new special school in Flint.

Campaigners with banners will gather outside County Hall as executive members gather for their monthly meeting.

The protest has been organised by Bev Matthias, from Caergwrle, whose five-year-old autistic son, Elliot, is a pupil at the ABA unit.

She has spent £200 of her own money printing banners for the protest which bear the slogans ‘Save Our ABA Unit’ and ‘Put Our Children Before Money’.

She told the Leader: “Elliot wasn’t speaking before he went to school.

“Now he is speaking in sentences and his behaviour has improved so much.
“He is so much happier now and loves school. He talks about it all the time.”

The Leader reported in July 2010 that the unit could close when a contract between Wrexham Council, Flintshire Council and Bangor University comes to an end.

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

But that claim has been contested by parents who say the facilities have not been promoted.

Ms Matthias added: “There is no other ABA provision in Flintshire or Wrexham.

“I don’t know what my options are and I haven’t been offered any other provision.”

More than 600 people have so far joined ‘Please help support the ABA class’ on the social networking site Facebook.

The issue was due to be discussed at executive today but has been deferred until September.

 A decision will then be taken on whether or not to publish a statutory notice proposing the closure.

Protestors will still be demonstrating from 10am.

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