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(Ireland) School adds modular autism unit; "inclusive"/"integrated"

July 1, 2023, Westmeath Examiner: Opening and blessing of autism unit St Michael’s NS, Castlepollard

Glorious sunshine poured down on St Michael’s NS, Castlepollard, last Thursday week for the official opening and blessing of their new modular autism spectrum disorder unit.

The unit has 11 pupils, two classrooms, sensory room and a ball room, and is hopefully, the precursor of a larger permanent, purpose-built building planned for next year.

Des Renehan, teacher at the school, serenaded the guests as they arrived and closed the celebrations with a rendition of This is Me.

Sean Beirne, the principal, said the unit provides pupils with a comfortable, safe environment that caters for their needs.

He spoke of the importance of the pupils attending their local school and feeling a part of the community in which they will grow up. He said it was wonderful how the pupils of St Michael’s were so inclusive and how the ASD pupils integrated into the mainstream school….

Mr Beirne read a statement from parents Amy and David Kearney, who have four children, three with additional needs. At one point, they were all at different schools – now they all attend St Michael’s, which is important to them as a family, and no one feels left out….

Very Rev Patrick Moore, PP, Castlepollard, and chair of the board of management, blessed and officially opened the new building. He was assisted by acolytes Shane O’Neill, Adrian O’Neill, Cormac Halpin, Conor Halpin, Rory Morrissey and Peadar O’Reilly.

Fr Moore spoke of the school’s Catholic ethos of taking care of the whole person, body, mind and spirit. He thanked the principal and staff for making this building happen and the children for their help, understanding and empathy. Fr Moore applauded the great work done by Mr Lancaster, adapting the previous makeshift accommodation and preparing the new unit, complete with a “bug hotel”.

Fr Moore said he was touched by the input of David and Amy Kearney about the importance of the unit and impressed with all the parents.

Staff and students at the opening of the new autism unit at St Michael’s NS, Castlepollard.

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