Mother of autistic teenager fears for children when 'lifeline' Asdrel support service closes
"I REALLY don't know what's going to happen to these children."
That was the reaction from the mother of an autistic teenager, to the news that a "lifeline" for such families will close next month.
North East Lincolnshire Council has confirmed that Asdrel, a support service based at the former Western Technology School site, in Cambridge Road, Grimsby, will close its doors on Friday, March 29.
The announcement comes almost exactly a year after concerned parents were told that the service, which supports children aged five to 16 with autism and asperger's syndrome to stay in mainstream education, was going to be withdrawn.
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Although the council insists that alternative support will be provided in the school setting for children with special educational needs, parents say Asdrel's demise will remove a lifeline for those who cannot cope with attending mainstream school full time.
Caroline Jones, 45, of Cleethorpes, whose 19-year-old son Thomas used to attend Asdrel and now volunteers at the centre, said: "The whole reason Asdrel was set up is that the children couldn't cope within their schools. These children are basically being sent back into school full time with no support. I really don't know what's going to happen to them."
Thomas has been offered a place at Linkage College, in Grimsby, but is waiting to find out if the council will provide the funding for it.
Caroline said: "He's at home full time apart from one afternoon when he attends Asdrel. It is the only social interaction that he has. It's something that he looks forward to every week. He is not socialising and he is becoming more and more withdrawn."
Meanwhile, Denise Portus, one of the parents who led the campaign to fight the closure, described the move as a "money-saving exercise" and said Asdrel had been made a "scapegoat".
Although her 12-year-old son Thomas no longer attends Asdrel, as he has secured a place at a special school in Brigg, she described the service as "brilliant".
Denise, 49, of Grimsby, said: "There's going to be a co-ordinator for the schools, but they will only go into the schools to advise. It will not be hands-on like it used to be.
"At Asdrel, if a child was having a melt-down they could leave the room and then come back in again. In a mainstream school with 25 to 30 kids in a classroom, if they don't conform they will be classed as naughty children.
"For those children who rely on Asdrel, this is going to be appalling. They won't get the individual support they do with Asdrel."
She said that a legal challenge against the closure had been put on hold because parents had not provided sufficient evidence to back up their case.
"It can't go any further until the lawyers have convincing evidence that things aren't right in schools."