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North East Autism Society | North East Autism Society | Durham, UK
Diverse Company of the Year

From our inception almost 40 years ago, until present day, the North East Autism Society has always been built on passion, commitment and sacrifice.

When the parents of a group of autistic children became dissatisfied with what was on offer to support their own families, and a general lack of autism awareness became apparent, something had to be done.

From shared resources, remortaged homes and a commitment to make sure their own children, and others like them, could have the lives and future they deserved, the North East Autism Society was born.

Now, four decades on, what we offer may look drastically different, but the heart is the same.

Recognised for our innovation and excellence, everything we do stems from an unswerving belief in providing bespoke person-centred support. It’s at the heart of who we are to recognise the uniqueness of every human being, and to understand that no two autistic people, or in fact any humans within an understanding of neurodiversity, will have the same needs or wants.

We passionately believe that autistic children and adults have significant skills and strengths, which can be developed throughout their lifetime.

Our approach aims to support individuals to participate in society as independent and valued citizens, enjoying equal rights and opportunities but also enriching the world around them.

Have a look at how far we’ve come…

1980 - Tyneside Society for Autistic Children was formed and 21 Thornhill Park in Sunderland was purchased. It was the region’s first residential school solely for pupils with autism but by 1982 we were so inundated with requests, the Carley Hill unit opened to provide additional accommodation and school places for 20 pupils aged between five and 16.

In 1985 at Westoe Village in South Shields was purchased to provide for 18 young people, for the first time on a 50-week boarding basis. But in 1991 due to increasing demand the unit in South Shields became unsuitable and 24 Thornhill Park (Thornholme) was purchased as a replacement facility in Sunderland. The need for a nursery became paramount along with the continued demand for day placements. We bought a third site at Emsworth.

1993 - The Society registered as a nationally recognised charity and changed our to the Tyne and Wear Autistic Society, continuing to grow with 78 pupils on role (43 day and 35 residential) between four and 19 years old. 1994 was a momentous year with the formation of Adult Services.

1997 - As Adult Services grew so did the need for residential care. The Society purchased a number of properties around Thornhill Park in Sunderland for adults to live and be supported in 24-hour care programmes. As of today we have 14 adult residential homes with 56 residents based in Sunderland and 10 Supported living services with 21 service users based across the North-east.

2006 - The Society leased a shop in Sunderland allowing vocational training and learning in a real retail environment stocking goods made by people in our services. In 2007 we started to buy smaller family-style homes to accommodate children within our services and in 2009 a range of extended services were introduced including the addition of Family Support to the Society’s portfolio.

These services allow young people and adults to be supported in community settings and include various sporting, after-school and accessible activities. The same year we also developed adult care services, by developing supported living services in partnership with a number of housing associations and local authorities. With so many changes we again rebranded to reflect the growth of the service area to the North East Autism Society.

2011 - New Warlands Farm (a 77-acre site) was purchased and a bespoke training centre was opened to accommodate more service users from the Durham area in social and vocational programmes and in 2013 – The North-east Centre for Autism opened at our Newton Aycliffe site by HRH The Countess of Wessex.

The £9m development encompasses Aycliffe School, children’s residential accommodation, a children’s short breaks centre, toddler groups and Thornbeck College.

The same year, in partnership with Durham County Council, we opened our residential short breaks lodges at New Warlands Farm for adults aged 16+.

The Sir Peter Vardy Enterprise Centre opened in 2015 at the Centre for Autism and in 2016 – seeing a need to support adults with autism and other examples of neurodiversity to find and sustain meaningful employment – we launched our employment services. In the last year alone we have supported more than 190 people and the work continues to grow.

2017 – We launched the UK’s first autism and neurodiversity academy (ANDA) seeking to train businesses, public sector and organisations to make the country more friendly for those who see and process the world differently.

2018 – Four new lodges were added to the farm site for adult short breaks.

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