independent

Wednesday 18 October 2017

An Taoiseach opens ABACAS

Principal Michelle McHugh welcomes Taoiseach Varadkar to ABACAS school
Principal Michelle McHugh welcomes Taoiseach Varadkar to ABACAS school
The Taoiseach visiting on Friday
Fergus O'Dowd TD, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mayor Pio Smith pictured in Drogheda ABACAS school on Friday
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with some of the pupils at ABACAS on Friday

Fiona Magennis

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visited Drogheda ABACAS School for Children with Autism last Friday to officially open the school, three years to the day after it moved into its permanent premises on Congress Avenue.

The day was an extremely proud and auspicious one for all those involved in the school, which caters for 30 students ranging from preschool age to 18, with autism and complex needs.

Started 15 years ago in a rented three bedroom house in Stameen by a group of parents of children with Autism, the beginnings of the school was 'born out of necessity' according to founding member Jacinta Walsh.

'It was about this time 15 years ago that myself and four other parents got into a car and drove down to Athlone to ask the Department of Education could we start a school and they agreed.'

'There was nothing suitable or appropiate in Drogheda at the time. We were very keen on ABA teaching and it was relatively new at the time.

There were 13 pilot schools like ours around the country and because of the influene those little schools had, that has affected the whole Department of Education policy on educating children with autism.

Principal Michelle McHugh said since moving to Congress Avenue the school has gone from strength to strength and the space has allowed it to offer new programmes such as Aisteoir and the Junior Cycle Programme. 'The space here allows our students to grow and develop their potential,' she said.

Having visited some of the classrooms in the school and meeting some of the students, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was impressive to see how far the school has developed since it achieved recognition back in 2011.

He said in the past, many people in the community had been unable to receive and education and had therefore been unable to be part of the community and had been effectively cast off into a world of lonelinees.

He said that while there is still much to do, days like this remind us that so much progress has been made.

'The American writer Joan Ryan said that parenthood is about understanding that your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be and that if you're lucky your child will be a teacher who turns you into the person that you're supposed to be,' he said.

There are a number of upcoming events at ABACAS including a meeting of the Parent Support Group with the topic 'newly diagnosed' on Thursday, September at 8pm. All welcome to attend. The Teenage Social Drama Group for teenagers and young adults with autism will also meet on Thursday the 28th. Details from Jacinta on 087 240 7431.

SibShop, a workshop for brothers and sisters of people with disabilities will take place in ABACAS on September 30th at 3.30pm. This is a fun interactive workshop with a trained dramatherapist. Details of all of the above can be found on www.autismsupportlouth.com

Drogheda Independent

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