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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Autistic boy's story sparks offer
Mandy Thurland and her son Curtis
Mandy Thurland and her son Curtis, who has a form of autism
A boy who officials tried to take into care after turning him down for special schooling has been offered a place after the BBC highlighted his plight.

Curtis Thurland, 13, who has a form of autism, was refused special education by Luton Borough Council.

Now Essex Autistic Society has offered Curtis a conditional place at the new 6m Doucecroft School in Colchester which helps children with autism.

On Thursday MP Kelvin Hopkins said the council should pay for the place.

Autism facts
90,000 children in the UK have been diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
There are only 7,500 places open to them
One in five children diagnosed with ASD are permanently excluded from school
Two-thirds of children with special educational needs (SEN) are permanently excluded from school
75% of children caught truanting have special educational needs

Earlier this week Luton Borough Council said Curtis's needs were being reassessed and as an interim measure he had been offered home tuition.

The boy's mother, Mandy Thurland, fears councils are choosing care provision over education because it is cheaper.

For years Mrs Thurland fought to have her son's condition diagnosed and when it was confirmed he had Asperger's Syndrome she thought the right support would come through.

Instead, she was asked to sign a form for her son to be taken into care.

When Clive Stobbs, chief executive of the Essex Autistic Society, heard about Curtis's case he immediately wanted to offer the family help.

"I felt desperately sorry for Mrs Thurland. I've seen it so many times. Parents need the help and they're not getting the help - it's all down to funding.

He has been out of mainstream education for two years now and has been so isolated. This would save the day for him.
Mandy Thurland

"We do have a few vacancies and we would be very happy to consider Curtis for one of those places once we have met him and his family to assess whether we are compatible."

He has invited the family to the school for an assessment.

Mrs Thurland said the place would change her son's life.

"It would turn his life around completely. He has been out of mainstream education for two years now and has been so isolated. This would save the day for him.

"My only hope is that the education authority will provide the funding to send Curtis there."

The borough council would have to pay 37,000 to 75,000 a year for the place.

Luton North MP Mr Hopkins, who has been supporting the family, said the conditional offer was great news.

"I think the local authority should fund this place. It's the simple way forward. The costs should be set against the possible costs to society of not funding special education for people like Curtis," he said.

All options open

In a statement on Thursday the council said the offer of the place would be bourn in mind.

"At present all options remain open. We are currently undertaking a reassessment of Curtis' special educational needs with Mrs Thurman's agreement and this will be completed shortly.

"Once this is completed we will be in a position to consider how his needs can best be met".

The specialist weekly boarding Doucecroft School, which opened 28 years ago, moved to its new site over the summer.

Its current roll of 25 pupils were in their new classrooms for the first time on Thursday. Eventually the school will have 64 pupils, with new admissions every term.

'Cheap' care offer angers mother
06 Sep 05 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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