AN autistic teenager gave a moving tribute to her teachers yesterday as her school became the first in Barnet to achieve an award for the way they deal with the condition.

Isobel Pierce, 17, cannot communicate by speech but is able to use a special computer to express herself, something her school, Oak Lodge in East Finchley, helped to get for her.

At a special assembly to celebrate the school’s accreditation from the National Autism Society, she told classmates and heads from Barnet’s three other special schools what it meant to her.

She said: “When I went to Oak Lodge I was ever so naughty. I was worried and scared, would they like me? So I tested Ginny [the deputy headteacher], I showed her just how entertaining I can be.

“I am so ashamed. I must have been horrible for her, but she always kept the faith in me, however out of control I got.”

She described how in the past two years, during which time the school has been undergoing rigorous assessment for the prestigious accreditation, the staff have learned a lot along with her.

She added: “The atmosphere and manner towards us has improved and staff have become quiet and calm.

“Nobody disrepsects us any more. The atmosphere is positive for me. New situations are difficult and I get anxious, but people understand and help.

“I feel safe at school, because I’m appreciated for me.”

Deputy head Ginny Mason praised the teachers and pupils for their efforts in getting the accreditation.

She said: “Today is a celebration for the staff and students, this is quite an important occassion.

“It’s a positive endorsement of all the hard work we have put in and contributed to this. This has come from care, guidance and support and all the work has really paid off.”

Other pupils at the school gave an entertaining and unique adaptation of Shakespeare, called A Midsummer Nightmare, and there was a cheerleading and a rendition of two songs from the school choir.

Robert Pritchett, the autism society’s director of accreditation, added: “I want to congratulate all of you for achieving this, it’s a really difficult thing to do.

“Isobel’s words at the beginning is the best reason I’ve ever heard given, that’s why this accreditation exists.”