Nightingale Autistic Unit
Parents of children with disabilities face a dilemma when it comes to educating their children. Will they be happiest in a special school where staff understand their complex needs and facilities are adapted to meet their requirements? Or will they have access to a wider range of learning opportunities and receive more realistic preparation for adult life in a non-disabled world by taking their chances in the rough and tumble of a mainstream school?
Mark Rutherford’s specialist Autistic Unit offers children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders the best of both worlds; the opportunity to join in classes & activities with non-disabled peers but also the reassurance of specially structured activities and trained staff when the noise and chaos of the mainstream school gets too much.
Unsurprisingly, demand for the unit is high and it became very overcrowded, not helpful for children who find it difficult to concentrate and find noise and disruption very distressing. The school secured funding to create a new building from the Education Funding Agency and the local authority, but a grant from the Trust’s transition programme enabled them to include two key features in the building; a life skills room to help young people develop domestic and social skills, and a sensory room to help children take part in individual therapeutic exercise programmes. These areas have been carefully designed with the needs of autistic children in mind and are available for use by local autism groups. Since its completion at Easter, staff and students have noticed a real difference. In the words of one new pupil “I like the provision at Mark Rutherford, especially now we have a big, new building. My favourite room has to be the Nightingale café (the Life Skills room!).”