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Staff taught to spot autism

Specialist training - the first of its kind in Wales - is helping classroom teachers identify pupils with autism.

A teacher has told how she helped diagnose a four-year-old girl with the condition after she was taught how to spot the signs, courtesy of a course run by the charity Autism Cymru.

Heather Griffiths, a reception class teacher from Tonyrefail primary in Porth, Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT), already had a pupil with Asperger's syndrome in her classroom. However, it was not until after the training that she became more aware there might be a medical reason for badly-behaved pupils. Now she plans to do more research into the brain disorder after becoming convinced good training and information is the key to diagnosing more pupils.

Ms Griffiths said: "It might be the one pushing to the front of the dinner queue, or the loner in the playground. There is not a one-size-fits-all to diagnosing autism and that is the most valuable piece of information I took back to the classroom.

"Parents might not like being told there may be a problem, but later they will be thankful."

The valley's school was one of 13 in RCT to undertake the two-day, whole-school training and research courses on inclusive schools and autistic spectrum disorders last November. All staff were invited to take part.

Jane Davidson, education, lifelong learning and skills minister, was due to present them all with certificates at the Education and School Improvement Service centre in Pontypridd today.

Maggie Bowen, Autism Cymru's deputy chief executive, said: "We are delighted with the positive feedback we had from schools in RCT. They have used the training to increase staff understanding of autistic spectrum disorders, and to boost the learning potential of all special-needs pupils."

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