Autism teen given new lease by centre

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HUCKNALL youngsters are benefiting from ‘excellent’ youth services provided by Notts County Council.

Initiatives have been praised and used as examples of best practice for other authorities by the office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) after a recent county-wide tour.

Inspectors have pinpointed the priority given to disabled youngsters, quality of venues and the excellence of staff.

“Young disabled people don’t always get the same chances as their non-disabled peers,” explained Coun Lynn Sykes (Con), chairman of the early years and young people’s committee at County Hall. “Through our support, disabled youngsters also learn to negotiate, share and be listened to, which is often not part of their lives.”

“We also help develop their confidence in areas young people might not have taken part in before, like performing arts and adventure activities.”

One such venue, the Folkhouse Young People’s Centre in Mansfield, is leaving its mark on the young people who use it.

A regular to the Wednesday night youth club held at the centre is Hucknall’s Scott Brown.

Scott is a 14-year-old who has grown up dealing with the consequences of an invisible disability — autism.

Autism is a condition that brings with it a world of challenges caused by social constraints, the need for repetitive routines and communication difficulties.

Scott, like many people with a disability, struggles to make friends. However, Folkhouse has provided a place to meet, socialise and learn skills and since becoming part of the ‘Folkhouse family’ he has a sense of belonging.

“I really like going to the Folkhouse as I have made lots of friends there,” explained Scott, who goes to Dawn House School in Rainworth. “I have even met my girlfriend at the youth club and we have fun hanging out.

“I get to play on the PlayStation, shoot pool and just chat to my mates in the cafe. All the staff are really friendly, honest and reliable and help us talk through some tricky subjects.”

Scott’s mum, Karen, makes the 15-mile round trip to Mansfield from their Woodlands Grove home to enable her only child to attend the centre, which costs £1 per session, plus £5 annual membership.

“He loves going to the youth club,” said Karen. “It gives him social opportunities to make friends and just be a teenager. And he has met someone who is really special and important to him.”

A week’s holiday in France with his Folkhouse friends over the summer is something Scott really enjoyed and which gave him the chance to explore independently, under the guidance of support workers, as well as give his mum some space for herself.

“Because of Scott’s difficulties and vulnerability, it’s vital that he has somewhere he can go and just be himself,” added Karen.

“It’s only when he goes away that I realise how much time I spend catering to his needs and ferrying him backwards and forwards. He had a brilliant time in France through simply being a teenager away from the watchful eye of his mum. It gave him the chance to make some choices for himself and maybe even make some mistakes and learn from them.

“The staff are totally committed and go above and beyond the call of duty.”

This was echoed by Scott, who said: “We had a great adventure, going to the beach and visiting a snail farm, but I didn’t eat any!”

For more information call the disability support team on 01623 626972.

OUR PHOTO shows Scott with mum Karen — DISPIC NHUD12-2381-2