It may have been raining – but the sun was shining in every one’s heart – for the opening of the splendid new building for Treehouse. Treehouse is the wonderful charity that set up an exemplar school for autistic children in Muswell Hill.
It is the most wonderful, spectacular building – with the most wonderful and spectacular people involved in its teachings, its running and its work right across the country to advance the cause and understanding of autism. Brilliantly – this super-school only takes children who are state funded – so that all autistic children can come here. Getting local authorities to fund individual children, however, is still the main battle. But once they are here – these children and their parents join a family whose support and care is unparallelled.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Education, came to do the honours – and gave a really great speech. He seemed to have a real understanding of the needs of children with autism – and their parents. We heard too, from Arsene Wenger, (yes – Arsenal Arsene) who last year made Treehouse Arsenal’s Charity of the Year and donated huge amounts to it. Trevor Pears of the Pears Foundation also spoke – and it was interesting to hear him thank Treehouse. It must be rewarding to be a key donor to something as wonderful as Treehouse – which was the point he made. And then, very , we heard poignantly from Claire Coombe-Tennant, a parent and a Trustee whose youngest son (of four sons) is at Treehouse. That was the clincher speech – to recognise the anguish, agony and exhaustion of the parents of an autistic child – and what Treehouse means in terms of relief, reassurance, rescue, hope and love to those families.
And yes – I had a word too. I simply spoke about the way Treehouse has become part of the Muswell Hill community – reaching out with the children going to three local schools each week to mix with other children and once a week the children from Muswell Hill Primary School come in and play with the children at Treehouse. The benefit to both sets of children is wonderful – and says we are all members of society and the more we know and understand and include each other the better our world.
We had all brought gifts to put in a time capsule – and two of the Treehouse children, Kaiser and Bilal, came onto the stage with their gifts too.
All in all – a terrific celebration of what can be done with passion and commitment. Congratulations to all at Treehouse.