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Massage teaches respect

Stephanie Lord is principal of Heathermount learning centre.

"Unless you feel good about yourself, you can't learn; that's our paramount ethos. Most of our pupils come from schools where they have failed, so we need to rebuild their self-worth.

Massage teaches pupils mutual respect, caring and to consider other people's feelings. Teachers show students how to request permission to touch each other's backs.

Pupils might say: 'I can see you're looking sad. Shall I do a happy story on your back?' We teach them that someone can touch you if you ask them or you give your permission, and if it makes you feel OK.

Sherbourne movement also allows children to work in pairs and develop mutual trust. They play reciprocal movement games like seesawing or strength play, where one person pretends to be a tightly-wrapped parcel, which their partner has to unwrap with the right level of strength.

Aromatherapy is introduced as part of the science curriculum. Pupils discover which scents make them feel calm and relaxed and they make their own sprays. A calming spray might be used in a classroom after a stressful event.

We all need to manage our moods. While adults might have a cup of coffee or take a break, children with autism find it much more difficult and learning special techniques can be very useful for them."

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