Students get straight to the point

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

Hillpark Secondary's unit is staffed by a principal teacher, five teachers and two assistants. Each pupil's timetable is displayed in the main corridor.

Art teacher Julie MacRae said: "It's important that everything is clear and predictable and that our pupils understand what each day is going to bring."

The pupils are helped to integrate into mainstream classes at Hillpark.

Vivienne Wire, the acting unit co-ordinator, said: "Most of our pupils will have a teacher or an auxiliary with them in mainstream classes as a support. We tailor our help to the individual needs of the child.

"For example, our pupils can be misunderstood or appear to be rude when they are simply being very direct. They also take things quite literally.

One of our boys was told in geography class that pupils should not use red pen or pencil because the teacher did corrections in red ink. The pupil laid down his pencil immediately because it was red on the outside."

Most of the 12 pupils have Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism. Ms Wire said: "They tend to be very skilled with computers and good at maths. They don't like the abstract, but give them concrete facts to deal with and many are skilled, not just average."

Several pupils in the unit are now in their final year. Two have confirmed places at college, one to study computer programming, the other film and theatre. A senior girl hopes to take up a course in beauty therapy.

Pupil Mark Edmondson, 17, from Knightswood, is to study film and theatre after winning a national film competition. His short film entitled 'Geordie Wirrell', about a boy who discovers a meteor, won the animation prize in the First Light Film Awards in London earlier this year. Mark would like to make a career in film-making.

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