PONTYPOOL, Wales: The first specialist college in Wales for students with Asperger's syndrome will open its doors in Gwent on September 6.
Priory Coleg Wales is based in a newly converted wing of the Pontypool Coleg Gwent Campus.
The partnership will allow students aged 16-25 who have Asperger's syndrome or a related condition to study a mainstream course at Pontypool College while receiving the academic, social and emotional support they need from Priory Coleg Wales.
The centre was created with funding from the Welsh Assembly and can hold 50 students, with 11 young people from all over Gwent including Newport, Monmouth and Torfaen already enrolled.
The facility is the first of its kind in Wales and features a fully fitted kitchen and dining room to teach life skills, an IT suite for study and a classroom for academic support including literacy and numeracy. The complex also features smaller quiet time rooms for relaxation and private rooms for counselling and speech and language therapy.
Students will be referred to the centre from Gwent and other surrounding areas from Careers Wales.
Owen Vaughn, 17, from St Julians in Newport was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome at the age of seven. He has just left Caerleon Comprehensive School with 10 GCSEs and three AS levels and will now join Priory Coleg Wales to study for a BTEC in Business Management.
He said: "I chose to study my course here with help from the Priory because they're the main group where I could be around others who would understand my Asperger's coping strategy which involves staying on task and a positive mental attitude.
"I've chosen this more vocational course for me to study so that I gain more independence before I leave to go into the big wide world of business and life out there."
Head of Care at the Priory Group, Martin Bentham, said: "The idea is the students will integrate with the mainstream college as much as possible and this is a safe haven for them to increase their confidence and independence skills."
The college will initially employ 16 staff - two direct tutors, one counsellor, a speech and language therapist, an art therapist, eight learning support workers, a head of education, a head of care and a head of learning support.
(Source: South Wales Argus, September 4, 2010)