Limpsfield Grange School is a Surrey County Council maintained residential Special School for girls aged 11 – 16 years old who have ‘Autism, speech, language and communication difficulties, emotional difficulties and vulnerabilities’. The school recently received an outstanding rating by Ofsted and is believed to be the only ASD specific school for girls in the country. The school’s largest cohort is those with a diagnosis of Autism and this group currently make up over half of the 68-strong student population.
Limpsfield Grange really do believe that “together we make a difference” and embrace diversity and celebrate difference in all that they do.
Autism Daily Newscast had the pleasure of contacting Headteacher Sarah Wild who took over the headship of Limpsfield Grange in September 2012, just as the Paralympic Games was taking place in London. Sarah began her career teaching English in East London and worked in a number of mainstream and special secondary schools working with Autistic and deaf young people. Sarah told us that she is interested in communication, interaction and language. She has worked with children and young people with Autism for the past 6 years.
Sarah told us that she feels very passionate about the fact that women and girls with Autism should have access to the same level of services, facilities and opportunities as men and boys. She told us that:
“Talking to parents of girls on the spectrum it is very clear that they have to fight incredibly hard every step of the way, to be taken seriously, to get a diagnosis, to locate, and then access, appropriate support for their daughters. Even after diagnosis families battle with a lack of understanding about how Autism can affect girls and that can be very disheartening for them.”
Sarah shared with us that they talk to girls explicitly about their fears or special interests and work with them to locate the cause of their anxiety.
“We regularly use yoga based techniques to help students attempt to self-regulate when they become anxious. We use visual and physical prompts to put things into context – and will often ask an anxious young person “what is the worst thing that can happen?” to help them gain a different perspective.”
An experienced CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health) nurse attends the school once a week and Sarah told that they are currently trying to develop a blended approach that uses CAMHS techniques and language across both the education and residential settings in school.
This year the school have started a research project with Professor Barry Carpenter and hope that this will help to further develop the school’s approach and practice.
“We constantly reflect on our practice and work as a team to get it right for our students.”
Sarah shared with us that her experiences at the school have shown her how being a girl with Autism can be challenging.
“Getting a diagnosis of Autism can be very difficult – many girls are diagnosed late, or missed completely, because their social interaction skills mask their difficulties, or because the diagnostic tools have a male bias. It can be challenging for girls who often spend a great deal of their time and mental energy trying to fit in with other people, but don’t really understand what is happening or why it is happening.”