6th May 2005 at 01:00
The Little Class with the Big Personality. By Fran Hunnisett. Jessica Kingsley. pound;12.95

It is good to know we share experiences and strategies with others, and this book - subtitled Experiences of teaching a class of young children with autism - is like a window into my own classroom.

Mainstream teachers should find it interesting and informative, as the insight into autistic behaviours and strategies are useful. For parents, the joys, difficulties, hopes and fears are an introduction to the teacher's point of view.

Fran Hunnisett devotes a chapter to each of the seven children in her class and skilfully unpicks some of the traditional diagnostic criteria for autism, showing how getting to know each individual is more valuable than looking at the label.

The children are engaging, lovable, complex, rewarding and infuriating in turns, and the pictures, which are drawn by one of them, aptly illustrate what the author describes.

This is accessible reading for parents and teachers and helps highlight the advantages and disadvantages of educating these children in a segregated class, rather than in a mainstream school. It is an essential buy for any mainstream teacher thinking of transferring to special education.

Margaret Sahin

Early years teacher, Bardwell special school, Bicester

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