Parents of children with autism have been celebrating as councillors in Epping Forest voted to approve plans for a new autism specialism school in Chigwell.  Autism affects 1 in 100 children in the UK and this decision paves the way for the construction of a state of the art, 128 pupil capacity, world leading centre of excellence in Essex.
The school, which has been designed by the National Autistic Society (NAS), will be built on the site of the former Spurs Training Ground on Luxborough Lane and will be completed by September 2016.
The plans were submitted by the Anderson Foundation, the charitable arm of the Anderson Group, an Essex-based construction company. Mark Anderson, the company’s Chairman, said:
“We have undertaken a lot of work with the National Autistic Society over the past five years. This includes fundraising and working together to build schools and facilities for children with autism. Together we created the Anderson School in Bristol, which opened in 2012. I’m so happy that now we have the chance to collaborate again, this time on a 128-place school, and other important facilities, in Chigwell. I feel it’s so important that we should do whatever we can to help children with autism – and their families – and give them the best possible education and life chances. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the councillors on the Council’s Development Control Committee for backing these plans.”
The AndersonNASSchool will be the world’s first purpose built facility specifically designed to provide the best possible learning environment for people diagnosed with autism in the world. It will put the Anderson Foundation at the forefront of thinking in terms of how improvements can be made to the lives of people with autism, allowing them and their families to live more self-sufficient and fulfilling lives.
128 children and young adults between the ages of 4 and 25 years old will benefit from a state of the art school situated in a parkland setting of 20 acres providing classrooms, communal areas, dining facilities, sports facilities and overnight accommodation specifically tailored to meet the needs of people with autism.
Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society, said:
“I’m delighted at this news and I would like to thank the councillors on the Development Control Committee for supporting this scheme. At present, 85% of adults with autism are unemployed. I think that figure is completely unacceptable and totally unnecessary. By approving these plans, the councillors have played an important part in ensuring that the future for the many children with autism, growing up in the District, is much brighter and that their chances of living independently and building a career are greatly improved.”
Ivan Corea, former chairman of the Autism Awareness Campaign UK, and father to a son with autism, said:
“We are absolutely delighted with the councillors’ decision. Since we received the diagnosis of our son’s condition, my wife and I have campaigned hard to raise awareness of it and to get an autism specialism school built in Epping Forest.
“Autism Spectrum Disorder is a very serious disability for many people and affects around 1 in 100 children born in the UK. The cruelty of the condition is that it affects that most basic of human desires, namely the wish to communicate and interact with your fellow human beings. The good news is that you can do a lot to help children who are born with it but you must start early and you must have trained professionals who understand it.”
Pauline Crabb, mother to a son with autism, who lives in Waltham Abbey, said:
“This is really great news. I never thought that help like this could be available for autistic young people over the age of 18. It’s good to know that professionals from the National Autistic Society will help them to learn basic things like how to cook, how to manage a bank account and how to deal with their bills. This is so important if you’re going to increase the chances for them to live independently.”
Peter Gross, a resident of Nazeing, said:
“I’m so pleased that the councillors have approved this. The lack of an autism specialism school has been the ‘missing piece of the jigsaw’ in Epping Forest, and it’s really good to know that I’ll have it as an option for my son when he gets to secondary school age. We parents need a helping hand while we struggle to do the best for our children. I feel that the councillors, and the local community in Chigwell, have just said to us: “Yes, we’d like to help by having an autism school here.”