REVIEW: Autistic students at LVS Hassocks shine in panto

Narrator Andrew takes to the stage to present Aladdin. Picture by Simon Dack / Vervate,
Narrator Andrew takes to the stage to present Aladdin. Picture by Simon Dack / Vervate,

Christmas Pantomime, LVS Hassocks, Sayers Common, Friday, December 16

Autistic students at LVS Hassocks celebrated the last day of term before Christmas by putting on a fantastic pantomime for their families and friends.

Jade (left) checks the beauty products with massage therapist Mandy Simmerling. Picture Simon Dack,

Jade (left) checks the beauty products with massage therapist Mandy Simmerling. Picture Simon Dack,

Around 20 children from the school in Sayers Common, for children aged 8 to 19 with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, took to the stage to perform Aladdin, aided by other students helping with technical aspects such as sound and music.

Teaching staff have been helping their students to learn lines and songs for the production for several weeks, and it paid off in style as the performance gained rapturous applause from a large audience.

Narrator Andrew Knowles said: “I really enjoyed being on stage in front of everyone, and changing my script to make it funnier because I like making people laugh.”

His mother Jane said: “I was really proud of Andrew today. He was at mainstream school previously and was shy, really lacking in confidence. Since arriving at LVS Hassocks he has been much happier and, because he fits in and people understand and encourage him, he has really come out of himself and become outgoing.”

Performers sing during Aladdin. Picture by Simon Dack,

Performers sing during Aladdin. Picture by Simon Dack,

The end-of-term celebration also saw learners selling goods that they had made themselves at gift stalls.

These included Jade who has been enjoying evening workshops from LVS Hassocks’ massage therapist Mandy Simmerling to make hand creams and soaps, which sold out on the day.

Mandy said: “It is a great way to teach students new, practical skills which they will be able to use beyond the school and may help them gain employment. Today has also given them the chance to practice handling money when selling their items, and communicate with customers, so all really valuable life skills.”

Other students made Christmas cards to sell, including Charlie who made cards to sell and also gave one to his mum and decorated pots in which to sell plants that they had grown themselves throughout term.

Refreshments were also provided by the students, with the school’s Oast Café open and selling tea, coffee and cakes. The Café, which opens to the public, is a unique initiative by the school to give students practical work experience and the opportunity to run a business, including its marketing, sourcing ingredients, making and selling items and handling money. LVS Hassocks’ Head Boy Joe Goatley was in charge of the café on a busy day, which provided him with useful work experience which will help him gain employment when he leaves the school.

LVS Hassocks’ Director of SEN, Sarah Sherwood, said: “It was a really uplifting end to term with our students showing such a range of talents, from acting and singing to technical knowledge and creativity in making cards, gifts and other items to sell.

“The most important thing of all, and one that we really value, is that they all successfully demonstrated the confidence that we have been helping them to nurture by either being on stage or communicating with visitors.

“Anxiety and lack of confidence can be a big issue for children with autism but our students showed today that with the right support that can be overcome.”

To learn more about the work of LVS Hassocks visit

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make our website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page

3 Follow us on Twitter

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

Be part of it.