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(Ireland) Drumshanbo: School opens ASD unit; more training/support needed

July 3, 2022, Leitrim Observer: Pictures from opening of new Autism Unit in Drumshanbo school
Every child in this school has individual needs and we strive to meet them. The opening of this building means that we are better placed than ever before to do just that.”
This was stated by principal Máirín O'Keeffe of St Patrick's NS, Drumshanbo, at the official opening of the new autism unit at the school on Friday, June 24.

Welcoming everyone to the opening, which was attended by many politicians, and which was performed by Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion Josepha Madigan she went on to say “About seven years ago, Clare McKeon, Jennifer’s mother, came to visit me in the school about enrolling Jennifer. At the time we had one Autism Class and there was not going to be a place in it for Jennifer although, she had a sibling in the school. And that conversation is where the story of today began.

“I talked to the BOM about opening a second class – they were all for it. We went from there to discussing building - the BOM was enthusiastically behind that as well. We sought funding from the DES, we fund-raised and of course, we were given the gift of the site for free from our parish. …

“And it’s a process that needs to happen and not just in this school. I know that our neighbours in Drumcong are opening an Autism class in September and I think that’s great. I wish them well and I’m sure I speak for Ruth when I say that if we can help in any way, we will.

“My daughter Eibhlín warned me about my speech today – she said that I wasn’t to give out or be like Fr Ted who got an award and called out all his fellow priests in his acceptance speech, but from the safety of imminent retirement, I have to make these few observations....

“Well, for what it’s worth, I think that there are two main things that need to be addressed. The first is training for teachers and that starts in the colleges. Children with Autism are in schools all over Ireland – train our young teachers to meet their needs. I never had that training and I don’t believe, 40 years on, that things have changed that much. Certainly they haven’t changed enough.

“Secondly, there is an allocation of SNA support for special classes. It’s a given – you don’t need to apply. There needs to be a similar allocation of services – of speech therapy, sensory OT and possibly behaviour therapy. It should be a general allocation based on numbers of children. There shouldn’t be any need to apply, never mind to have to struggle, for these services….

Pupils Caitlyn Hayes and Eoghan Maxwell help cut the tape with school principal Mairín O'Keeffe and Minister Josepha Madigan at the official op


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