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Schools urged to come to terms with cerebral palsy

Capability Scotland, formerly the Scottish Council for Spastics, wants to ban the use of the word "spastic" as a term of abuse in the playground. Alan Dickson, Capability Scotland's deputy director, said: "It is taboo. By ridding ourselves of the name we are setting an example."

Margaret Holmes, a cerebral palsy sufferer who attends one of Capability Scotland's day centres in Glasgow, said: "I have lived with the word spastic all my life. I don't like it. It's a stigma. I'm glad it's been taken out of the new name."

The 50-year-old organisation has moved from paternalistic care for the "can't do's" to empowering the "can do's", hence the new image launched last week of "turning disability into ability".

A schools' pack will be available in the autumn aimed mainly at primaries. Capability Scotland's three education staff will help explain cerebral palsy and the wide range of services available.

As well as day centres, employment programmes, and advice and therapy, Capability Scotland runs three schools.

The oldest is Westerlea in Edinburgh, with 59 pupils aged three to 18. There is also a centre for the under-threes. Marie Thomson, Westerlea's headteacher, said: "We are committed to shifting attitudes by becoming an obvious part of society." This includes education in mainstream schools wherever possible.

There has been increasing provision in local authority schools for mild to moderate cases of cerebral palsy and related syndromes, leaving Westerlea to cater for the most severely affected children. Ms Thomson helps ensure that links are maintained between these children and the rest of the community by using local recreational facilities and by encouraging secondary pupils to become regular visitors.

Ms Thomson places particular value on a scheme to "match" visiting pupils with a Westerlea pupil during recreation time.

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