Without functional communication adults with autism are isolated from their community, family and even those that care for them. Imagine being unable to ask for your most basic needs to be met. The frustration felt by those who lose their ability to communicate is easy to imagine - now try to imagine never having that ability.
For those with autism who are described as "non-verbal" it is vital that their education is based around the ability to communicate and that teachers can teach in a communication style that makes sense to the student.
Our experience is that our children have thrived following the introduction of effective communication systems based on Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) and The Pyramid Approach to education. Children who have been unable to access any area of the curriculum have no understanding of social interaction, listening and communicating, maths, science, literacy and all the areas we hear discussed in meetings with the schools teaching our mainstream children.
We felt we needed to establish a school in the West Midlands and Warwickshire for our children and as a support model for the rest of the UK. Without clear and early intervention these children often grow into adults with no communication and independence skills, they become the most dependant and sadly most vulnerable group that need the largest amount of support. By giving children a better quality of life, communication and independence we also reduce their long term dependence on their community.
Whilst it is true that it is a legal obligation for the Local Authorities to provide an appropriate education for these children we cannot expect that each authority will have the expertise, space and funding to run units and specialist schools. They do indeed have many special schools but for many children they source education further a field from specialized schooling. In the West Midlands and Warwickshire we have no behaviour analysis schools (ABA) or schools that use PECS (the Picture Exchange Communication System developed by Pyramid Education Consultants) to teach.
As parents, family, friends and professionals in the field of autism we cannot wait for somebody else to tackle the deficit which is why The Island Project was founded.
Children diagnosed with autism need structured and specialised development of the national curriculum that is communication rich and provides functional behavioural models and outcomes.
Whilst the range of individuals diagnosed with autism or on the autistic spectrum grows ever larger many of those diagnosed can access the exisiting education framework.
However, for many of those children who have complicated and often severe communication difficulties they require very specific support in order that they thrive and have the opportunity to be as independent as possible.
This is the area The Island Project wants to address. By providing a behavioural school we believe we can make a difference not only to those children and young people supported by the school as well as their families but indeed the wider community benefits.
Independence through communication allows individuals to grow to offer more to their community and in the longer term reduce the burden on society as a whole.
In the past research has shown that up to 50% of adults diagnosed with autism had no functional communication skills, this is not acceptable today or in the future . . with your help we can make a difference in our area.