For many children, going to school each day is a routine – and for some an unwanted – part of growing up.
But for pupils on the autism spectrum, school can be a very different experience.
LVS Hassocks is a specialist school for day students and residential students with autism.
Lucy King and Callum Mcree, who both attend LVS Hassocks told the Middy what it is like to be part of a specialist school.
“Each morning I get up, wash and get ready for school, I also make breakfast for myself,” said Callum.
“I play guitar for ten minutes or so to wake myself up, get my brain going and get my hand to eye co-ordination going.”
I really enjoy being able to go to lessons and not feel worried, at my old school I would rarely turn up, and when I did I was worried about being excludedLucy King
Callum’s passion for music has developed through the school’s music club and as a member of The Hassocks Allstars Blues Band – which Lucy is also a member of.
“I take NVQ Catering, which I really enjoy because its practical and I like my teacher,” said Callum.
“We both do the Duke of Edinburgh award, which is great. We really enjoy being active and keeping our days full,” added Lucy.
“I really enjoy being able to go to lessons and not feel worried, at my old school I would rarely turn up, and when I did I was worried about being excluded. What makes LVS Hassocks different for me is the staff. They all treat you with respect and understand when you’re having a hard time, it makes a big difference.”
Callum said many pupils’ previous schools didn’t understand their needs or the best way for them to learn.
“That’s probably why I tried my hardest not to go,” he said. “Everyone here works together to make sure that this is the best place for us.”
Sarah Sherwood, director of Special Educational Needs, said: “Living as much of an independent life as possible is an important aim for the school. Our approach focuses on each aspect of daily life, including choosing the right food for healthy living to learning to do household chores.”
Christina Hart, head of vocational, explained the challenges and rewards of the job.
“Every individual is different and unique, bringing their own character to the class room, that’s why conventional teaching methods may not work so you consistently have to think on your feet and be creative with your delivery.
“Additionally as the students grow socially and emotionally you need to ensure that you grow with them.
“It constantly requires you to evaluate and reflect on your practice as a teacher.”
Christina said the rewarding element comes when staff see the difference they make – watching students develop friendships, sitting exams or communicating with other people.
She added: “These are all little rewards that are as much an achievement for you as they are for the student.”
The school also makes sure students have supported social sessions each day to support their ‘spiritual, moral, social and cultural’ learning in an ‘engaging’ environment which does not put the focus on academic achievement.