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Probationer'sautism studywins award

Parents are less concerned about the causes of autism and more with what can be done to manage the often extremely distressing condition, according to Andrew Foster, winner of the George D Gray Award for the best undergraduate thesis.

Mr Foster, 28, is a probationer at Bowhouse Primary in Grangemouth and, unusually, is taking a P1 class after completing his studies with what the General Teaching Council for Scotland labelled "one of the best undergraduate theses ever seen".

His review of the effectiveness of applied behavioural analysis (ABA) was sparked by his experience of working with children at the Spectrum play scheme in Dundee over the past three years.

The ABA approach, he explained, has been shown to be reasonably successful for children on the autistic spectrum. It is intensive therapy which rewards positive behaviour, breaks down the day into manageable chunks and is said to work most effectively with toddlers.

In his thesis, Mr Foster says that around 20 children in every 10,000 are born with some form of autism. "While it is entirely plausible that more children are being diagnosed with the condition, this may simply be the result of greater awareness within the medical profession and a more open-minded view of autism within society, rather than any environmental factors such as the MMR vaccine," he states.

He points out that the high cost of ABA therapy, at around pound;20,000 a year, has made local authorities hesitant about recommending it as a wholesale solution. But Mr Foster stresses that it does notwork for all children.

Currently, he is enjoying his probationary year."I was a little trepidatious at first and it's tiring and challenging but ultimately very enjoyable," he said.

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