Inside purpose-built school for children with autism

Arial view of a grey colour-bond school

A school purpose-built for children with autism will open on the Gold Coast next week.

Josiah College has been custom-designed to suit the needs of autistic students who may struggle in a mainstream school environment.

Working closely with specialists in autism from the Bond University Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorder, the school's design takes into account everything from the positioning of land to the use of colours and even the movement of the school's fans.

Josiah College is Australia's first custom built school for children with autism. Source: Supplied

Classrooms have been carefully designed to suit the needs of children on the spectrum. Source: Supplied

"Children with autism deserve the same quality of education as every other child, and they deserve to thrive as much as any other child does," Josiah College executive principal Patrick Innes-Hill said.

"We want to see children either successfully transitioning back into mainstream education, or moving into the workforce with confidence."

The school's executive principal Patrick Innes-Hill wants children with autism to have the same quality education as other children. Source: Supplied

The school collaborated with architects to make sure the building design reflected recent findings on sensory sensitivity in children on the autism spectrum.

That includes rooms sound-proofed to reduce noise, lights that are dimmable, and custom-designed furniture and garden areas.

The school's custom-designed garden area. Source: Supplied

Dimmable lights take into account the sensory sensitivities of children on the spectrum. Source: Supplied

"What to a neuro-typical child is just a background hum or glare from a white-board can be distracting or distressing to a child with autism," Mr Innes-Hill said.

Each class will have a ratio of eight students to one teacher – much smaller than a typical mainstream classroom.

In its first year, the school will cater to 16 students between grades two and five, but the plan is to expand the intake to cater for up to 64 students between grade two and 10.

"I'm unbelievably excited that Josiah College is about to open," Mr Innes-Hill said.

"There's a little bit of nervousness there - first night nerves as it were, because I want the kids to have a really fulfilling, really happy experience here."

On opening the school will have a 1-8 teacher-student ratio. Source: Supplied

Children at the school will follow the national curriculum, slightly adjusted to suit the needs of learning with autism.

"Children with autism are wonderful people with incredible gifts and we want to enable them to recognise these (gifts) and grow, and share them with the rest of society," Mr Innes-Hill said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, recent figures show that 86 per cent of children with autism who were attending school reported "having difficulty" with fitting in socially, learning and communicating with others.

The school is located on the Gold Coast in Queensland. Source: Supplied

Between 10 and 20 per cent of children in Australia with autism are currently outside the mainstream education system, either being schooled at home or shifting from school to school.

"This is an exciting and much-needed initiative," Professor Vicki Bitsika from Bond University Centre for Autism Spectrum Disorder said.

"For a long time, our research has told us that children with autism, and adolescents with autism, don't cope well in mainstream environments.

"So this is a wonderful opportunity to maximise their capabilities."