TWO autism specific centres could be established in Dumfries and Galloway for children and young people.
Following a public consultation on educational provision for autistic children and young people in this region, officials have come back with two options.
The first is for five autism-specific resourced provision centres to be established locally, across the area.
However, their preferred option is to set up autism specific centres in Dumfries and Stranraer, as well as refurbishing spaces in some secondary schools to be more autism friendly.
It harks back to 2013 when the council was working on plans for two such centres in Dumfries and Stranraer. They had to be shelved due to a lack of suitable premises and funding.
But it’s hoped it can go ahead this time round and a report will go to next week’s council education committee asking elected members to approve the latest proposal.
Quality improvement officer Andy Margerison is the report author and said: “This option will enable a number of young people who require non-mainstream provision who are currently in day or residential provision back to the region to be educated in a purposed designed space at both sides of the region with close access to a mainstream school for part of their learning if possible.”
He notes that, in the consultation, the preference of youngsters, parents and staff was for as many individuals as possible to be educated alongside their neuro-typical peers.
But they also wanted more quiet, safe spaces for breaks and lunchtimes, and flexibility in timetables allowing children and young people opportunities to have learning breaks or find sanctuary when things became overwhelming.
Mr Margerison said: “The second part of Option 2 is designed to achieve this aim by identifying areas in some secondary schools to create autism-friendly spaces. This would address the needs of the young people, keep them in their catchment schools with their peers and friends whilst providing them the ’safe spaces’, flexible timetabling, and the opportunities to learn in ways that suit them aiming for ‘qualifications’ relevant to their ambitions and targets.
“This would also address the concerns of parents and carers.
“The capital money will be used to refurbish and equip these spaces to be autism-friendly. It would also to provide the schools with an alternative to when a full mainstream timetable is not the most appropriate solution for that young person. These spaces would be the responsibility of the schools to manage and resource, but they would be facilities providing a wealth of opportunities that few secondary schools have available at present.”
His report reveals that in 2022, there were 605 youngsters in the region recorded as autistic, adding: “The latest local information indicates that 830 children and young people are reported under the ASD category. This equates to a rise of 27 per cent in a year and 52 cent since 2019.”