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North East Autism Society

North East Autism Society

The Society was founded in 1980 by a group of parents whose children were diagnosed with Autism. They wanted to send their children to a school where the staff understood their needs and where each child would be helped to achieve their full potential. The organisation was set up as a registered charity called the “Tyne and Wear Autistic Society”.

Since the 1980s Thornhill Park School has become firmly established as a major regional and national resource. This led to further developments for ‘Children’s Services’ to offer year round residential care for children with autism. Our care and educational staff work together to provide a 24-hour programme of development, particularly in social skills, communication and leisure.

Our services were extended in 1994 with the provision of Adult Services to provide educational and vocational programmes to adults over the age of 19 years. Today our services include Thornbeck College, Social and Vocational programmes, workshops where employment skills are learned as well as a range of residential homes, supported living arrangements and short break facilities.

We established a range of Family Support Services in 2009 which are provided seven days a week in the local community and are tailored to meet the needs of individuals with autism and their families.

With the expansion of our services throughout the North East we rebranded in September 2009 to become the “North East Autism Society”. The name and brand protects our image as a local charity, whilst demonstrating our commitment to all those communities in which we are working to develop high quality services for people with autism.


Inclusive features


We work in partnership to achieve outstanding personalised services for people with an Autism Spectrum Condition

Our Values

  • To have our learners and service users at the heart of the organisation
  • To operate a fair, respectful and honest culture
  • To strive for the highest quality
  • To operate with integrity

In practice, we believe that ‘excellence’ for an autism specific service stems from a total commitment to the individual. Every one of us is unique, with differing needs, wants and challenges - and autism affects each person uniquely. Several key beliefs underpin our work and inform the decisions that we value in planning services.

  • Individuals with autism will continue to develop skills and strategies throughout their lives. As an organisation we can demonstrate positive outcomes for children, young people and adults with autism.
  • Children and adults with autism have significant strengths and can use these to continue to learn and develop skills that enable them to participate in society as independent and valued citizens, enjoying equal rights and opportunities.
  • We will further develop an eclectic and flexible approach utilising the unique personalised resources and approaches necessary to support the development of individual skills.
  • Through working alongside children, young people and adults with autism we will empower them to contribute and be consulted realistically on every aspect of their lives.
  • Consultation through listening to people who use the service and their representatives is key to effective and evolving services.

What is Autism?

Research suggests that currently 1.1% of the population have a diagnosis of autism. This statistic does not take into account the number of people whom may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Recent studies show that more males than females have a diagnosis of autism at a ratio of 4:1. Current and ongoing research questions this statistic, suggesting that maybe females present in a different way to males.

Historically the focus has been on the ‘impairments’ and deficits of individuals with autism, instead of looking at the vast collection of skills many individuals have. For example, someone who has an eye for detail and is able to focus on the smaller parts as opposed to the whole could make a fantastic proof reader. A young person who relies heavily on structure and routine would be a reliable and punctual employee.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental condition which affects people in four key areas:

  • Communication Differences 
  • Processing Differences 
  • Social Understanding 
  • Sensory Differences

Autism is referred to as a ‘spectrum condition’ which means that the core features of autism will impact differently on each individual. For example, two young men may both have ‘differences in communication’ one of them may speak articulately and fluently, but understand very little, whereas the other may only speak in single words and understand much more. 

Autism is often referred to as ‘low functioning autism' and 'high functioning autism' or Asperger’s Syndrome. The main difference between the two is that someone with high functioning autism, will have an average or above IQ and will have language. The core features of autism will still affect the individual and the idea that individuals with high functioning autism need less support is inaccurate.

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