Independent living centre in Colchester leads to brighter lives
By Rebecca Creed – The Gazette
AN independent living centre for people with autism and learning disabilities has opened in Colchester.
Bright Lives has created the centre, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.
Based in Haven Road, Hythe, Colchester, it is laid out like a flat with kitchen facilities, a washing machine and dishwasher.
There is also a computer room for students to research budgeting, meal planning and other vital life skills.
A special opening was held to mark its launch and was attended by Colchester mayor NIck Cope and the High Sheriff of Essex James Bettley.
On the day 27 of the students who will be trained at the centre enjoyed mixing with the public and showcasing their talents, which included poetry and art work they had prepared earlier.
They also cooked a soup from scratch for their guests and entertained them with a dance performance.
The centre aims to help people with autism and learning disabilities to act independently, socialise comfortably with the public and be happy.
At the centre they will receive training on how to look after themselves at home, manage their finances, shop by themselves, cope with relationships and train for work, as well as learning a number of other skills.
Michael Jones, the CEO of Bright Lives, said: "We have received enquiries since the opening day and we expect to reach our full capacity of helping 124 a week in the near future.
"This is an exciting programme, providing life skills and training to people with autism and learning difficulties.
"We have seen over the pilot programme our students realising the benefit of greater independence, giving them the confidence to choose their own direction towards enabling a better life for themselves.
"I would welcome discussions with parents and carers about the possibilities this centre can offer to those they support.”
Visitors also had a chance to experience what it is like to have autism by taking a tour around the autism bus using 3D goggles, to help them understand the sensory issues they have to deal with.
To find out more about the centre call 01206 615165.