Dec 2, 2019, Belfast News Letter: NI school builds its own sensory room to support pupils with autism https://www.newsletter.co.uk/education/ni-school-builds-its-own-sensory-room-to-support-pupils-with-autism-1-9160102 A Co Down primary school has given a disused caretaker’s store a illuminating makeover to help support pupils with autism. The former store is now a sensory room where children can experience a calming environment should the pressures of school get too much for them. The sensory room at Carryduff – one of only a handful of mainstream schools in Northern Ireland to have specialist classes for children with autism – was created by one of the parents at the school. Principal Barbara Preston said: “Children simply cannot learn if they are dysregulated. Many pupils need support to regulate and an area like our sensory room is invaluable in providing that child which a calm, safe space.”… Carryduff Primary School on the Killynure Road has approximately 200 pupils in nine classes and also operates two Social Communication Unit classes which aim to support pupils with a variety of social and communication difficulties associated with Autistic Spectrum disorders…. Barbara said: “The school has been able to create a fantastic regulation space with the help of one of its parents, Lee McCluskey from LM Services, who offered to help turn a neglected caretakers’s store into a sensory room for pupils attending the school’s Social Communication Units…. Autism is on the rise amongst school children in Northern Ireland with boys almost three times more likely to be autistic than girls. Meanwhile the cost of providing support for pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN) has increased to around £270million [$360M US] a year. According to figures from 2016/17 there were 76,300 children with SEN in Northern Ireland’s schools in 2016/17, 22% of the school population…. In terms of autism, figures published earlier this year by the Department of Health showed the number of pupils aged four to 16 with autism or Asperger’s syndrome had trebled in a decade. The department revealed the estimated prevalence of autism within the school aged population in Northern Ireland increased from 1.2% in 2008/09 to 3.3% in 2018/19. The department’s analysis said that increased awareness and the effect of the Autism Act NI which was passed in 2011 were potential reasons for the rise in diagnoses…. “The stigma around autism also needs to be removed. Our autistic children are some of the the quirkiest, most fun kids you’ll meet. You wouldn’t want to lose that. “What is possible is to teach coping strategies for these children when they get overwhelmed. With the right support nearly everything can be managed. “The sensory room is one of those strategies, our unit classes would also use calm music and yoga, particularly to calm down after break time.