Thornbeck College

Thornbeck College is an Independent Specialist College providing personalised programmes to autistic and neurodivergent individuals

Working together to inspire, support, celebrate and equip autistic and neurodivergent people to fulfil their potential in life.

STAFF at Thornbeck College have made a huge impact on Daniel Rice’s life, says mum Paula – so much so, that she describes them as “angels”. 

Daniel, who is now 22, began accessing NEAS services when he was referred to Adult Short Breaks at New Warlands Farm, in Edmondsley, County Durham. 

Paula says she was blown away by the specialist support that NEAS staff offered her son, and it was through this service that she became aware of Aycliffe School, which Daniel attended from 2016 to 2018.

As Daniel got older, he transitioned to Thornbeck College, which is also based at the North East Centre for Autism in Newton Aycliffe.

“Thornbeck College is just the perfect place for Daniel,” says the mum-of-three. “He was at Aycliffe previously, which is on the same site, and they prepared him for the move with lots of visits.”

Daniel initially followed an educational programme of study at the college. However, after staff noticed he was struggling with the demand, he now takes part in sessions such as admin, domestics and social enterprise as part of the Skills for Living and Work pathway

Paula adds: “Since starting at the college, Daniel has matured, he is able to deal with small changes more easily and his speech has come on a lot.

All of that is down to the staff and I can’t thank them enough for helping Daniel. They are all angels to me – it feels like they have been in Daniel’s life forever.

Paula says the college has not only had a positive impact on Daniel’s wellbeing, but also made a “big difference” to the wider family at home.

“Not only are the staff interested in Daniel’s welfare and whether he’s happy and stable, but they also care about us and how we’re all doing at home,” she says.

“If Daniel is happy, content and feels sure about what is happening, if all those boxes are ticked, that has a positive knock-on effect for everyone else at home.”

Daniel has also grown closer to his siblings – Hannah, 13, and Lewis, 16 – since starting at the college, and has even developed a new nightly routine with his sister, allowing her to blow dry his hair.

“He would never have engaged in anything like that before,” adds Paula.

One of the things Paula loves most about Thornbeck is the close collaboration between staff and parents, and she receives daily updates about Daniel’s activities and progress.

“I feel listened to by the staff at Thornbeck,” she adds. “We’ve been to other services and, more often than not, you just feel like you’re not being listened to.

The staff keep me updated daily about the things he’s been doing, or if he has had any issues. They also make sure I know if there are going to be changes to Daniel’s routine so that I can prepare him at home.

Paula adds: “They can read him like a book. They know what he enjoys, they can tell when he is starting to feel anxious or upset – I’m his mum, but I would say they know him almost as well as I do.” 

While Paula is unsure of how long Daniel will be able to remain at Thornbeck College, she says she’s “thankful” for the support their family has received, particularly from FE Tutor Leigh Tolley.

“Leigh knows Daniel so well, I just could never thank her enough,” Paula adds. "She always knows when I am not myself too and is always there for me.

"There is just so much trust – and I have that relationship with every single member of staff."

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