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Parents’ fury over planned closure of autism centre at Westwood Primary School, Buckley

A CONTROVERSIAL decision to axe a special centre for autistic children has prompted fury from parents.

Flintshire County Council’s executive committee last week approved plans to close the Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) centre at Westwood Primary School, Buckley, which offers one-to-one care for children with varying degrees of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

County education chiefs claimed the service was outdated and said there were better facilities available for autistic children at the new special school – Maes Hyfryd – in Flint.

But the move has attracted heavy criticism from parents of children who use the centre, including Ahmed Bhatti, of Bryn-y-Baal, near Mold.

Mr Bhatti, who is a plastic surgeon at the Countess of Chester Hospital, said the service has done wonders for his six-year-old son Ammar.

"ABA is the only therapy that is proven to be positively effective in the management of austism," he said.

"Before joining the centre, my son was unable to walk or talk. Now he is starting to communicate with us and tell us what he wants.

"The level of improvement we have seen in him is amazing.

"This seems to be a planned closure and the council has portrayed the school in totally the wrong way."

The report presented to the executive committee last week suggested the centre had not benefited children as much as it could have.

It said: "Whilst the provision has been successful in enabling the children to be educated on a mainstream site, there has been limited opportunity for greater integration into mainstream classrooms.

"The school does not consider itself to be in a position to increase integration at present, due to the complex needs of the pupils, and the impact of this has been

that a number of children have gone on to experience difficulty.

"They often fail to generalise the skills they have learnt and it has been reported by some parents to have restricted the development of their child’s independence skills, resulting in an increased dependency on adult support."

But fellow parent Beverley Matthias, of Caergwrle, has also disputed the claims. Her five-year-old son Elliot has been a pupil at the ABA centre for two years.

She said: "The staff have worked extremely hard to get Elliot to the point where he is in the mainstream school attached for a great deal of the school day now.

"If anyone had told me this would happen when he began ABA I would not have believed it. They really are miracle workers.

"Many autistic children have a very high IQ but struggle to communicate in other ways.

"The closure of this centre could mean the difference between a child growing up to be independent or requiring 24-hour support."

At last week’s meeting Ian Budd, the council’s director of lifelong learning, said a full consultation process would be carried out.

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