94% success rate among autistic children on learning skills project

AUTISTIC children who took part in a project to improve learning skills were ready for mainstream school on completion of the programme, according to its overseers.

Professor Alec Webster, director of the South West Autism project at Bristol University, said they had recorded a dramatic 94% success rate among participants.

“Children made huge gains in academic skills, but more significantly, they acquired social skills to take part in group activities and to take part in the everyday school routine.”

The new teaching method, which was developed by a team of researchers at Bristol University, is being hailed as a major breakthrough for autism sufferers and their families.

In the study, a total of 26 autistic children received an individual programme tailored to their own needs. Each child then received two hours’ programme tuition a day for two years during school term times. The youngest child to be enrolled in the research was just two-and-a-half-years old, the oldest was three-and-a-half. Parents were encouraged to participate in the teaching sessions which are designed to revolve around play.

During the research, the children’s progress was measured using a scoring system for learning difficulties.

The spokesman for the Irish Progressive Association for Autism, Kieran Kennedy, said it was interesting to note that the local authority in Bristol had funded the programme.

“The approach is in direct contrast to what happens here.

“Bristol City Council provided £300,000 to fund that programme, showing an interest in helping solve problems for families dealing with autism. Here we have to fight for everything.” The chairman of the Irish Autistic Alliance, Cormac Rennick, said the Bristol programme highlighted what they have been saying for years; that the earlier autism is diagnosed and treated, the more effective the treatment is.

He said it also reaffirmed the benefit of specially tailored programmes to meet the individual child’s needs.

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