THE parents of an autistic boy say closing his Newport school and replacing it with a specialist autism school will rob him of vital opportunities to integrate with children in mainstream education.

Damien Lane, 40, and his wife Dilek, 37, oppose plans to close Brynglas Primary School, where their son, seven-year-old Alex, attends the autism unit, because they say integration is key to his development.

Under proposals which entered informal consultation earlier this month the 74-pupil school, which can take up to 210 children, could close and be developed into a special school for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder.

The site currently has a 12-pupil autism unit, where children are taught by specialist teachers, but encouraged to integrate with mainstream pupils at lunchtimes, and during some lessons and assemblies.

Mr Lane, who is also a parent governor, says the integration has improved Alex's eating habits because he sees other children sitting at tables, he is more at ease around other people, he can learn by watching others play and his maths is now good enough for him to take some classes with pupils in the main school.

He fears the move will create a “ghetto” for autistic children, and he is angry the consultation started a fortnight before the school's summer break began.

“Taking the integration away would be like taking a wheelchair away from a legless child." he said.

“At the moment, there's a chance be will be able to function with some independence when he's older but if you take the integration away, we don't know what affect that will have.”

Mrs Lane said: “He needs role models to follow and not to be stuck with other children with the same problems he has.”

The school faced closure due to falling pupil numbers in 2007 when it had 97 children on its books, but it was saved in March 2008 after a hard-fought campaign by parents, teachers and governors.

A Newport council spokeswoman said no decision had yet been made about the future of the school, and the views of parents with children in the autistic unit will be taken into consideration during consultation.

“Proposals for integration will form part of the consultation process.” she added.