I hope you are wondering what The Zach Project is all about…
Zach is my son, he is 18 and due to leave his school in July. Zach has severe autism, he is non verbal and has behaviour which can challenge.
He attends an independent school called Treehouse which was set up by a group of devoted parents who wanted the best education for their children, Treehouse is now run by the charity Ambitious about Autism. Some years ago parents became worried about what their children would do when they left the sanctity of Treehouse school and were thrown out into a world which largely does not understand autism or accommodate difference too well and it was decided that the charity should aim to open a college, Ambitious College to give all young people on the Autistic spectrum a right to a college experience and education…..sounds good so far right?
We believed that Zach would be offered a place at Ambitious college, he attended the charities school and needed a college to go to when he finishes there.
He has done well in the 6 years he has been at Treehouse School using the applied behaviour analysis approach to learn.
Applied behaviour analysis in a nutshell is ‘the process of systematically applying interventions based upon the principles of learning theory to improve socially significant behaviours to a meaningful degree, and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behaviour.’ It is a tried and tested method of working with people with autistic spectrum condition and can be very effective.
On the 11th February while I was at work I received a phone call to tell me that Zach was not going to be offered a place at Ambitious College. The reason given was that he needs access to a quiet room and they could not provide this facility.
We had about 5 months in which to come up with another plan. You may wonder why I didn’t just approach one of the other colleges which I had diligently visited and researched, the reason I couldn’t do this was because there was no where within reach of our home in Hertford that would be able to meet Zach’s needs and offer a suitable environment in which Zach would learn and thrive.
My first reaction was disbelief and anger. Zach was going to be one of the fewer than ‘one in four young people able to access education beyond school’. Ironically I got this figure from Ambitious Colleges website.
Both my and John’s initial reaction was that we would challenge the decision to exclude Zach from his college experience but by 10’o clock on Friday morning I had another idea and that was The Zach Project!
I’m not quite sure how I will pull it together, I have the support of John, Beam Clinic, some great friends and professionals so The Zach project has begun!