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Young achievers

Paper tiaras and pompoms were de rigeur for all 37 pupils at Hope Lodge special school, run by the Hampshire Autistic Society for pupils aged 6-16 with autism, during a recent day of Brazilian dancing.

Led by dancer Ana Carla Cozendey, working in the school hall and the playground, the children in three different groups learned to do the Srevo, a dance involving stepping in and out of a circle with complicated foot movements, and the Ciranda, another circle dance, this time with everyone holding hands and moving around together.

The social co-operation required in the dancing was challenging for many autistic children, says music co-ordinator Sandra Simpson, who organised the day. But it was so much fun, even the most unexpected children joined in.

"We have a child who can be physically quite challenging. I wasn't expecting him to last the whole session, but he did. And another one, who never joins in with groups, started off just outside the hall looking in, but when she saw what was happening she came in of her own accord and spent the whole workshop smiling and waving a scarf she was given to hold."

Interviews by Karen Gold

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