2.1 Residential support
The parents who started the National Autistic Society (NAS) in the 1960s and set up the first schools for children with autism all too soon found themselves addressing provision for their adult offspring to experience the kind of structured environment that would enable them to achieve their potential. Previously, offspring such as theirs may have been committed to long-term institutions for those most unfortunately described at the time as ‘feeble-minded’.
This led some parents to purchase a property that could become a residential home for their adult offspring: Somerset Court, near Burnham-on-Sea, was established in the early 1970s. Subsequently the NAS has set up some other small residential homes around the country. Each aims to help residents augment their social and communication skills; learn some everyday life skills such as cleaning, shopping and cooking; and gain in confidence, with the support of specialist staff. Approaches such as TEACCH, discussed in Week 5, are used to create a structured environment. Residents may attend a local college for day and evening classes, or learn some vocational skills. Somerset Court has its own onsite resource centre.
Other local autism charities have similar facilities, with places funded by local authorities. Another option is to attend a local daycare centre, although these may not be autism-specific. A person must have been assessed by social services, and have had funding agreed, in order to gain access to such services.