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Smart new play area ready, OK!

PUBLISHED: 18:34 03 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:20 03 July 2010

FUNDING BOOST: A cheque from the Prince's Trust for Autistic Way's Smart Kids OK centre in Gapton Hall Road, Great Yarmouth

FUNDING BOOST: A cheque from the Prince's Trust for Autistic Way's Smart Kids OK centre in Gapton Hall Road, Great Yarmouth

Dominic Bareham

THE dramatic turnaround in fortunes of a centre for autistic children in Great Yarmouth continues with the opening of a new sensory garden and play area today.

THE dramatic turnaround in fortunes of a centre for autistic children in Great Yarmouth continues with the opening of a new sensory garden and play area today.

Autistic Way's Smart Kids OK

centre in Gapton Hall Road was in serious financial trouble a year

ago after funding had dried up. But

a £300,000 lottery grant and money from the Norfolk Community Foundation arrived just in time

to save the service and pay off the debts.

The situation has improved since then and the centre now employs 13 staff, and 50 people have inquired about using its facilities. One way of adding to their income has been an increasing number of birthday parties being booked at the centre at weekends, and is a facility open to the general public.

The Smart Kids OK centre, run by Waveney and Great Yarmouth Autistic Society, provides respite

care for children aged between

three and 18 who suffer from the disability, which causes communication problems and hinders the development of social skills.

Centre manager Jacky Porter said each child paid £6 to use the centre for up to three hours on a weekday morning, but the total cost of providing the service for the child was £40. On a Saturday morning, the cost per child was £15 for up to five hours, but approximately £50 to Smart Kids OK.

Therefore, the support of local business is vital to the long-term future of the service, which Mrs Porter set up because there was nowhere for her autistic son Harry to go locally.

A number of civic dignitaries are due to attend the garden opening ceremony today including MP Tony Wright and mayor Terry Easter.

Costing £22,500, the new garden boasts a chalkboard, a giant pirate ship, hexagonal seating area, herb and vegetable gardens and a sensory garden with water features.

Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources including Radio Broadland, the Prince's Trust, and Beach Radio's Help an East Coast Child. Money also came from staff at superstore Asda and the Geoffrey Watling Charity set up in memory of the Norfolk businessman, who left money in his will for charities in the Norfolk and Waveney area.

Mrs Porter said the garden was a “big improvement” as the previous outdoor area was overgrown with bushes and trees.

She said: “It is brilliant. The kids absolutely love it. It gives them freedom outside in a safe place.”

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