Autistic pupils swamping city - fear

11th July 2003 at 01:00
John Clark looks at examples of Glasgow's expanding provision for children with autism, which some say is still lacking

Glasgow is expanding the number of places for pupils with autism, bringing spending to more than pound;3.5 million a year. But experts say the city and other education authorities are being "swamped" and cannot keep pace.

The council will open two new, school-based units in August, at Govan High and Barlanark Primary. The move is in response to an increase in the number of children showing signs of autism or who are waiting to be assessed.

Autism is a complex, lifelong condition which shows itself in different ways. It can present as a profoundly severe disability, or as a problem of understanding and a lack of social skills.

Some people are badly affected, others have more subtle impairments. Hence the term "autistic spectrum disorders" is often used.

In the past, these disorders had a low profile. This resulted in what seemed like a battle for many affected families who sought help for their children's special needs.

Margaret Orr, senior education officer with responsibility for special educational needs, believes Glasgow is leading the way in providing for children with autistic spectrum disorders.

Two units, Toryglen, located in a mainstream primary school, and Howford, within a primary school for youngsters with moderate learning difficulties, have recently been accredited by the National Autistic Society as trainers of teachers.

The communication disorder unit at Hillpark Secondary on the south side of Glasgow was the first of its kind when it was set up five years ago. These successes are acknowledged by the Scottish Society of Autism. But Jane Hook, its chair, said: "Glasgow, like every other local authority, can't seem to keep up with the increase in the numbers of autistic children.

"Like everyone else, it is swamped. And smaller education authorities are simply not able to provide that range of services."


* Glasgow has more than 600 children identified as having autistic spectrum disorders;

* The number of childrenidentified as being on theautistic spectrum or awaitingassessment has risen from22 in 10,000 of the childpopulation to 37 per 10,000;

* Autistic spectrum disorders cut across class and country, race and ethnic groups. They are not just a condition ofchildhood but are lifelong;

* Four times as many boys as girls are on the autisticspectrum;

* People with autisticspectrum disorders are typically impaired in three areas- socially, in language and communication, and in thought and behaviour;

* Some children have little or no language and can onlygesture to express themselves, while others have advanced language and reasoning;

* Some appear to live in afantasy world, for instance speaking in American accents;

* Some may behave in aphysically aggressive way or try to run away.

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