New autism-specific school set to open in NSW

New autism-specific school set to open in NSW

Non-profit Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) has announced that it is investing around $60 million in new and existing schools across New South Wales to create best-practice, autism-friendly spaces for students over the next few years.

As part of the commitment, Aspect recently secured the former Bupa aged-care facility in Cardiff Heights in the Hunter-Newcastle region – a three-story building with 6,542 sqm of land – and will turn it into an autism-specific school that can take in up to 60 students.

“Much work will need to be done to convert the building into a purpose-built school,” said Maryanne Gosling, national director for education at Aspect. “Our class student numbers are purposefully small to cater for the needs of each individual student, and the aesthetics and layout are carefully considered with our students in mind.”

It is estimated that over 5,500 children in the Hunter-Newcastle region lie in the autism spectrum, according to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIS). As a registered independent school, Aspect delivers the NSW curriculum while working to each student’s autism-related learning needs.

This new project adds to Aspect’s existing list of autistic-specific schools. Its main campus is in Thornton, while seven satellite schools are located within mainstream and Catholic schools for approximately 200 children.

“With the current demand and wait list, our hope is to continue to build additional partnerships with other schools as well, to help address the immediate needs of the community,” Gosling said.

However, the way the school is designed is just as important as its establishment. As such, Aspect is in collaboration with architects and builders who have had prior experience in developing autism-friendly schools – all while keeping the local community in the loop.

“Aspect has been blessed with strong community support in the Hunter-Newcastle region, who have sponsored everything from new building wings to employment programs,” Gosling said. “We hope to work with corporate and individual funders to assist in closing the gap for needed resources and ensure the longevity of our programs.”