This photo of the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford was taken a few weeks ago on my husband’s phone. It is very nearly twenty years to the day since I spent a frantic lunchtime in there revising between exams. It was the first time in three years at Oxford that I’d stepped foot inside the place (in my defence, I was studying Zoology and the Radcliffe Camera holds Arts collections). I had little time then to appreciate its beauty, but a few weeks ago we sat in the sunshine on some steps opposite and discussed how the view from where we were had changed little in hundreds of years.
My husband and I were were taking the opportunity to indulge in a little trip down memory lane, visiting old haunts (Richard’s a strange mix of libraries and pubs) but we were in Oxford because I’d been asked to speak about Archie’s progress with LAMP at an ACE Centre network day on autism. This was an interesting day, with presentations from people working with AAC users and from manufacturers of various devices and software. The ACE Centre has provided a one day workshop on ‘Moving on from PECS’ over the last few years, which I have always wanted to attend. We were given a snapshot of this workshop and it did look interesting, discussing why PECS has a tendency to lose effectiveness as PECS users grow older. The ACE Centre has always worked one to one with families and schools in the Oxford area as well, encouraging and supporting AAC use, from low to hi-tech devices and techniques.
I was therefore very sad to read that a decision was made a the end of March to close the ACE Centre. The website home page explains that: The reason for closure is simply financial; caused by a reduction in the income from assessments services. This is, to some degree, a result of the financial pressure that schools and local authorities are under, coupled with a lack of sufficient funding from government sources to cover the infrastructure costs of running a small highly specialised centre of expertise.
This is a terrible loss; the UK is far behind where it should be in implementing the use of AAC and the Ace Centre was leading the way. It had no alignment to any particular supplier and so offered a truly independent assessment service, with people attending the centre able to try out a wide variety of different approaches and devices. Having seen how life changing LAMP is proving to be for Archie it is depressing to see one means of accessing the AAC world is closing due to lack of support from government funding sources. We’re all in this together; except we’re not.
There is a petition that can be signed here, please spread the word.