St. Michaelís Special School in Castlerea caters for children with autism, physical and intellectual disabilities ranging in age from 4 to 18. The school delivers the full primary school curriculum along with extra curricular subjects with specialised teachers in art, cookery and woodwork. Post primary pupils follow a full second level timetable with FETAC certification and this includes individual transition programmes to employment, further training and/or adult services.
The school principal, Geraldine Connolly, commented recently, ďthe need for increased awareness and ongoing care for physical and intellectual development is a core aspect of education for pupils with special needsĒ.
Following consultations with multi disciplinary professionals the school is now planning a modern proactive response and has embarked on a major new initiative to promote the health and well-being of its pupils. It hopes to provide access to a much-needed Sports Therapy Complex to build on its tradition of care and development of the whole child and to support its work in partnership with specialist professionals such as Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy.
A major feature of the complex will be a hydro therapy pool. This will be accessible to the wider community and will be a vital element of the centre. A multitude of benefits will be gained from this for students with physical disabilities who need daily therapy to sustain suppleness and agility, thereby reducing joint stiffness and pain. Its multipurpose design will increase its efficiency in facilitating the acquisition of the basic aquatic skills for students who need a safe area which is sensitive to individual needs when learning to swim.
Another feature of the complex is the sensory integration room. Attributes will include relaxation and learning opportunities for the students which will accommodate meaningful access to a broad based curriculum and independent living. This safe and nurturing environment will respond to the hypersensitive nature of the studentís sensory needs particularly for children who have autism or visual impairment.
An outdoor learning space will offer differing degrees of challenge for the student. This practical and fun area will be wheelchair accessible, safe, simple, neat and inviting with an artificial all weather surface to maximise usage throughout the year.
A key element within the school will be its new therapeutic gym. This facility strives to assist students with autism and/or intellectual disabilities by enhancing physical conditioning by further developing skills around physical fitness, coordination and strength. This will enhance training for Special Olympic athletes with careful consideration given to matters of safety, respect and disability needs.
To cater for children who have disabilities across the autism spectrum, an activity resource environment will be available. This will accommodate those who have difficulty accessing and engaging with the mainstream range of P.E and games equipment. Equipment will be robust but lightweight and portable alternatives will be provided to conventional rigid and bulky apparatus. Children with Downs Syndrome will benefit enormously from a variety of fine and gross motor skill activities.
All facilities in the school have been made available to the wider community and various local schools and therapists have accessed equipment and space to benefit children with special needs. Children who have shared placement or dual enrolment reap the benefits from this all inclusive provision.
Funding for this complex is vital so each child can be accommodated in their every day school and personal life experience. The school are undertaking a sponsored cycle to raise much-needed money for their centre. The event is taking place on Sunday 17th June.
Three cycle routes are available. A 100k leisure cycle will depart at 10 am; a 40k scenic cycle will depart at 11.30 am and a 10k fun cycle will depart at 12.30 pm. Registration starts at 9.15 am at St. Michaelís school, which is located on New Road in Castlerea. The registration is Ä25.
For entry forms, route maps and other information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 094-9620523. Any support will be much appreciated.
Issue dated: 08 June 2012
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