“It was the best transition the social worker had ever been part of. That’s what we were told when Toby Wyatt moved on from NEAS children’s services to other adult services,” says Deb Fleetham, the manager at Wallingford Children’s Residential Home.

But that’s not how things started for Toby, Deb explains.

The happy, relaxed young man now able to move on is a testament to the care and dedication of our staff who have worked with Toby over the last eight years.

NEAS have a number of Children’s Residential homes across the Sunderland and Durham area. All of which are registered with Ofsted and offer weekly, termly and 52-week residential placements according to the needs of the child.

"It has been a pleasure to work with Toby and his family and while the team at Wallingford were very sad to see Toby go we are so proud of how fantastic he has coped throughout his transition to his new service," Deb adds. "Ultimately, for every child who lives with us, our aim is the same. We want them to be happy, relaxed and to enjoy life to the full.”

And that’s just the life Toby, from Stanley, is now leading. Now 20-years-old he began accessing services from the North East Autism Society in 2007, when he was just 11.

Toby Wyatt
Toby’s mum, Jean Wyatt, looks back at her son’s achievements during his time at NEAS.

“When Toby was younger it was very difficult to go out as a family," she says. "Toby can’t speak and so because he is non-verbal it’s difficult for him to communicate and he would get very anxious, especially when we visited new places.

“People would assume Toby was misbehaving when we were out and about but it was because he was uncertain about the environment and this would trigger his anxieties. Transitioning from one place to the next always posed difficulties.

The progress Toby has made over the last eight years is down to the dedicated staff team, both at school and at his home, who have worked with Toby to come up with personalised strategies which have helped Toby to flourish. He’s now a happy and more independent young man who can cope with transitions and changes in routine.

These changes have meant Toby’s day-to-day quality of life has massively improved.

Christine Cave, Head Teacher of Thornhill Park School, says: “Initially Toby was timid and wary of the world around him, however, with the support of our specialist staff he grew in confidence, was able to make relationships and enjoy life to the full.

“He particularly liked to get out and about, especially in the countryside, or to a local café where he use his PECS file to request ice cream or cake – his two favourite things!

“Toby was able to confidently transition into adulthood and as a team we’re really proud of his achievements.”

Like many autistic young people, simple activities that many people take for granted could trigger anxiety for Toby.

“When Toby was younger simple things like visiting the dentist or accessing medical care could make him very upset but there was a time in the last year where we had to take Toby to see an eye doctor," Deb adds. "This potentially upsetting appointment went without a hitch. He was able to go, get help and was back home as any teenager would be. It made us really proud of him. It takes something like that for those of us who work really closely with the children, to see how far they’ve come.”

Mum, Jean, adds: “I’m just so proud of what Toby has accomplished. The staff at NEAS have done wonders.”

Making sure the children in their care go on to happy, healthy adulthood is vitally important for managers at NEAS.

Deb said: “We love all the children who come into our care and we go over and above all the time to make sure each young person is not just happy but that they’re also progressing.

When it came to Toby leaving we worked with his social worker, his new care team, his clinical lead and his family to make sure everything in our power was done to make it go well. It’s definitely not a case of ‘well now that they’re going we need to focus on others’. For us how our children transition into adult care is as important as all the years we’ve had with them.

“I’m sure that’s why Victoria Owens, the social worker, was able to come back to us to say it’s the best transition she’s ever been part of.”

Find out more about our Children's Residential Services