The Donaldson Trust has a long history in Scotland and has been recognised and respected for supporting children since its founding in 1851. The Trust has had a clear commitment regarding the services it has provided, which have included the original hospital for destitute and vulnerable children to the more recent residential educational establishment for children who are deaf.

The Changing Landscape

Until 2016, the Trust was operated and was well known to be the National School for the Deaf. However, as a result of a number of government policies, the requirement for continuance of this type of model had diminished. The policy of presumption of mainstream means that deaf children are more often included in their local school community. In 2016 the Board agreed that a constitutional review was necessary, and with this, an undertaking to widen the purpose of the Trust that would provide a more sustainable and attainable future.

It was agreed that our new purpose would be:

  • to promote and encourage children and young people with additional support needs to realise their potential.

Since 2012 the Scottish Government has been considering the recommendations made within the Doran Review and the 4 key areas of priority identified as:

  • Autism
  • Mental health
  • Transition
  • Education for Children in Hospital

As a result of the consultation findings and the flexibility the change of purpose allows, the Trust piloted a new transitional support service for children and young people with neurodiversities in 2016.

The success of the service has been evident with positive outcomes being achieved, with numbers attending growing year on year to a total of 60 young people registered with the service at any one time.

The Scottish Government has been hugely supportive of this change in direction of the Trust and has stipulated that for the purpose of strategic commissioning, services would need to be offered from a national perspective.

Through the Learning Centre and #JunX10n support service, The Donaldson Trust supports children and young people, and encourages each and every one of them, to realise their potential. In addition, the Connect service works in partnership with individuals, organisations and business to increase the understanding of neurodiversity and improve the experiences of neurodivergent people in the wider world. We pride ourselves on our person-centred approach, recognising the importance of tailored, flexible support services so we can truly meet the individual needs of children and young people.

The Learning Centre

  • Provides individualised, person-centred, skills-based learning for children and young people up to the age of 18 with complex additional support needs, including autism, sensory impairment and communication difficulties.

The Gate 

  • Launching in August 2021, The Gate is our skills development and training service for people with neurodiversities aged 16+. The service aims to build confidence and resilience, and through our person-centred approach, achieve agreed goals and ambitions.
  • The Gate has a range of vocational and accredited courses, delivered by tradespeople and tutors.

The Vibe

  • Launching in August 2021, Vibe is our learning and wellbeing service supporting children & young people to re-engage with learning in a neurodiverse friendly environment.

Our Aims are:

  • To be relevant, vibrant, agile and sustainable
  • To be the recognised organisation for excellent practice related to neurodiversity
  • To influence and impact services across education and society in relation to how individuals and organisations approach neurodiverse young people
  • Improve the outcomes for people with neurodiversities
  • Improve the representation of neurodiversity socially, politically and culturally
  • To grow a community of partners and partnerships supporting neurodiversity

Our Ambition

  • To be the National Body for Neurodiversity

 We deliver everything through our overarching principles of:

 Organisational Excellence - Increasing Beneficiaries - Making a Difference

And our Values:

Individual capability

  • Everyone has their individual capabilities; we find them. Help people reach their own potential. We loosen the confines, remove the barriers. We believe in every single person. Treating people as individuals shows we are flexible in our approach


  • We are curious, forward-thinking, always looking for a better way. One day, we will be truly pioneering.

Human dignity

  • We have integrity. We treat everyone with respect. We listen.


  • We understand. We have empathy. We are kind and caring.

Openness and honesty

  • By being open and honest we earn trust; from that, we build rewarding relationships.