Huge strides for autistic

9th December 2005 at 00:00

Every morning at Rosehill special school in Nottingham starts the same way: with a run around in the school hall for staff and pupils alike. This PE session helps the 68 autistic pupils, aged between four and 19, relax from sometimes long journeys into school and is the one uncontrolled part of the day.

"We structure things very well so the children know what to expect, but the exception to that is 'hall running'," said John Pearson, the headteacher.

"Each child changes into a yellow shirt which designates a change in activity, and it is fantastic because autistic children do not normally volunteer to run around on their own."

Mr Pearson has struck a balance between creating a comfortable environment for the children, removing objects that may cause anxiety with overstimulation, but giving them a sense of the real world with regular trips outside the school gates.

"If you make life absolutely comfortable for a long time then what happens when they leave? So we get them to partake in different circumstances and take them out to cafes, supermarkets and museums, so they can learn the social skills they need. We want things to be as normal as possible."

Rosehill is a nationally recognised training centre for teachers wanting to work in autism.

Inspectors praised the emphasis on preparing pupils for life and the bond between children and teaching staff saying: "There is always an adult they can turn to for help and advice."

It communicates daily via home-school diaries. Parents are invited to a monthly forum.

Mr Pearson said: "It is also a happy school and the key is team work, but we do recruit the right people who love the problem- solving aspect of working with autism."

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