Many people are familiar with autism, but as a spectrum condition, it affects people very differently. The young people we support at Prior’s Court are all severely affected by their autism, have complex learning difficulties and on average another 4 diagnosable conditions - making them some of the most vulnerable young people in the country.

Around 80% are non-verbal, meaning communicating their thoughts, feelings and wishes can be difficult and frustrating – often resulting in challenging behaviour when they are unable to express themselves in ways that we take for granted. This can make life really tough for families – something which our founding patron Dame Stephanie Shirley CH experienced when raising her own autistic son, Giles.

That’s why Prior’s Court is here. We are the specialist school she would have loved for him that simply didn’t exist in 1999. Since then, we have grown and developed into so much more than a specialist school; we now provide a much broader service provision for young people aged 5-25 with complex autism. We additionally offer 52-week residential care including a young adult provision, a training and development centre with world-class expertise, our own research programme, a commercial bakery providing real work opportunities - and pioneering technology to help us better understand autism and our young people.

I didn’t know very much about autism, but what I did know was influenced by what I had seen in the media – so it was a very high-functioning kind of autism. I didn’t know how serious the condition could be. I didn’t know that it meant perhaps Zac would never be able to walk properly, or talk, or use the toilet.

You reach the realisation that you’re not the best person to look after your child which is heart-breaking because you feel like a complete failure – the one thing you are supposed to do is look after that child and keep them safe and we couldn’t do that.

Suzanne, mother of a Zac - a young person at Prior's Court

We aspire to be global leaders in our field and to transform the lives of even more young people with complex autism. We strive to continually push forward with practice improvements and innovations to provide the best possible care.

But it’s not about us. It’s all about the young people we support – helping them to be healthy, happy, more independent and have the opportunity to work. To deliver outcomes beyond imagination and help families enjoy the magic moments they never thought they’d have.

My proudest moment was being able to get Zac into Prior’s Court. I will never do anything that I am as proud as of that.

Where so many people had written Zac off, [Prior’s Court] was somewhere where he would be at the heart of everyone’s day, to give him the life he deserves and needs.

Matt, father of Zac - a young person at Prior's Court

This video outlines our philosophy and ultimately – the reason why we exist. We’re here to transform the future for young people with complex autism.