Charity to fund first Scottish school to help autistic children

Dave Clements and his daughter Lily. Picture: Contributed
Dave Clements and his daughter Lily. Picture: Contributed
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A Scottish charity is hoping to set up a specialist school that could benefit children with low functioning autism.

It would be the first school in Scotland to teach children using the applied behaviour analysis (ABA) method – a therapy that uses a system of rewards to change a child’s behaviour and teach them new skills.

For example, a child may be rewarded with something they enjoy, such as time on an electronic device, in exchange for eating their dinner.

It is a method widely used in America, Australia, Scandinavia, Canada, and in some parts of England, but much less so in Scotland.

The demand for providers of ABA therapy has skyrocketed in recent years. Some families have moved from Scotland to England in order to gain a place at a specialist school. Tutors teaching ABA are in high demand - and very expensive.

Dave Clements, who is helping raise funds for the school through a charity cycle from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, said the learning technique had made a massive difference to his 13-year-old daughter.

The 47-year-old, from Edinburgh, said: “There’s nothing like it in Scotland and so we have been paying for private tutors. It has made a big difference with Lily, with her all round communication and her behaviour.

“Lily will never drive a car, she will never go to university, she won’t have a family of her own, but she has the potential to learn to manage her personal care, live with support as part of society, have a simple job and be valued as a member of the wider community. Without the relevant education she may instead spend her adult life in a care home, further isolated from, and a burden to, society.

“There are many children and families like ours in Scotland, who are entitled to a brighter future, a future which ABA may be able to provide.”

Guri Le Riche, secretary of the board of trustees at the Stoa School charity, said: “We are currently looking at setting up a small Saturday school in Edinburgh, and we are looking for space within one of the existing schools. We would then hope to expand to a five day a week school.

“There are growing numbers of schools in England and there are children who have been moved from Scotland to England to attend these schools.

“The method is particularly successful for children with low functioning autism. As a children learns how to learn then that can have a knock on effect on their behaviour, which can then help them academically.”

Dave’s fundraising page can be found here: uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DaveClements