New autism school brings pupils 'home'

YOUNGSTERS with autism were given fresh hope with the launch of a groundbreaking £1million school on their doorsteps.

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Arran House in St Leonards, East Kilbride, an offshoot of residential school Daldorch House in Ayrshire, will provide intensive support to three pupils with profound autism.

The satellite school, which includes a sensory room, kitchen, living area and separate bedrooms for each of the pupils, will be staffed round the clock.

More than 60 pupils currently live at Daldorch House, in Catrine. It was Scotland's first 52-weeks-a-year residential and day specialist school specifically for children and young people with autism.

Both centres are managed by the National Autistic Society (NAS).

Arran House is a collaboration between NAS Daldorch and South Lanarkshire Council and was launched to bring children who need specialist support closer to their families.

Tommy Pollock, whose daughter Louise, 12, will live at Arran House, said he and his former partner Irene were delighted their daughter would be returning to their home town.

He said: "This is both a launch of a fantastic new school and a welcome home party for our daughter.

"Becoming resident at Daldorch was the best decision for Louise and she has made terrific progress in meeting the challenges of her condition.

"But even though we knew we were doing the best for Louise, it was very hard when she left home at such a young age.

"We are thrilled Louise is coming home to East Kilbride, Instead of travelling for two hours to see her, she'll be literally just down the road."

The new school aims to help young people aged between five and 19 develop their learning and daily living skills within their local community.

People with autism, a developmental disability, can experience severe challenges in communic-ation and understanding the world around them. An estimated 50,000 people in Scotland have autism, nearly 1000 of them thought to live in East Kilbride.

Lisa McMillan's son Ross, 13, who will also be a resident at the school.

She said, "We're del-ighted Ross will be getting the right education for his needs, while living much closer to his family.

"I stay in Blantyre and regularly travelled to see Ross at his former school in Ayrshire but the three- hour round trip could be quite a challenge, especially in the winter months. Now I just jump on a bus and I'm with my son in minutes."

Shona Pinkerton, Daldorch's principal, said: "We believe every young person with autism should have the best possible opportunity to live and learn in a setting that works for them."

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