Back to timeline Järva VIP school focuses on each and every student 2000 In autumn 2000 the first Nytida school, Järva VIP pre- and primary special school, opened its doors. The school is aimed at students with autism and ADHD. Birgitta Zakariasson started work there two years later, having recently moved to Stockholm from Kiruna. “I thought there would be lots of different jobs to choose from in Stockholm, but the first one I applied for was at Järva VIP and I’m still here,” she says. At that time, it was located on the site of an old playschool in Ulriksdal, Solna. First it was a short-term facility and then the operation expanded so that the ten children who attended were also offered places there. The premises were small. “We even rented a one-bedroom flat with a kitchen, located above the Vivo supermarket in Ulriksdal, because we didn’t have enough space,” says Birgitta. The school grows As the number of students increased, the premises at Ulriksdal became too small and the school moved to Hagalund. After several years, this became home to the Haga VIP special secondary school. In 2009 the pre- and primary school moved to Sollentuna. Today it has 30 pupils who learn in premises adapted to their unique needs. The classrooms are small, as teaching takes place in small groups. Four students make a large enough group, according to Birgitta. This provides the opportunity both to meet and interact with other pupils, without too much distraction or disorder. One-to-one teaching is also effective here, with interaction between just one student and one teacher or other co-worker. Students with autism find it difficult to fit in Birgitta says that Karin and Ingela, who started the school in 2000, realised that students with autism often find it difficult to fit in at both mainstream and special schools. The VIP school therefore placed emphasis on interaction and communication – things that those on the autism spectrum generally find difficult – as well as on meeting each pupil on his or her own terms. This is still an important part of how things are done at VIP schools. Birgitta has worked at Järva VIP almost from the beginning. “We have in-depth knowledge of autism, work using a low-arousal approach and have a high staff ratio with everyone working towards the same goal,” says Birgitta. “Our working methods are important in enabling us to deal with students. As well as physical disabilities, many of them have self-harming or behavioural issues and have experienced previous failures at school. Students can also bring learned negative patterns of behaviour with them, which take a while to stop. But it can be done once we have got to know each other and have built a relationship of trust and confidence.” “We have one student who used to break windows when stressed, but we have worked together so that he hits the windowsill instead. It’s a fantastic feeling when you achieve a result like that,” says Birgitta, who is still very happy with her work after nearly 15 years with Järva VIP school. “It is so exciting and challenging to see all our pupils as the unique individuals they are and to try to understand why certain things happen; what I could have done differently when things don’t work; and how I could do better next time. It’s also very gratifying when things go well, for example if we go out on a trip having done all the right preparation and everything works as it should.” Read more about Järva VIP here.