Galway speech and drama school is creating a program that promises contagious creativity

Michelle O'Grady

Michelle O'Grady

The Réalta school of Speech and Drama which was established in 2016 by Speech and Drama Teacher Michelle O'Grady and specialises in one-to-one classes for both children and adults with Autism, Down Syndrome and other special needs and challenges.

Speech and Drama is an invaluable tool in helping to build trust and develop interpersonal relationships. It is also instrumental in enhancing skills of interaction and imaginative thinking.

From her extensive work with children with Autism, Michelle began to notice how much they enjoyed and engaged with Speech and Drama and how it allowed them to express their remarkable imaginations.

“I really just see the person and not their label or limitations. I see their personality and hope to bring that out and make them feel good about themselves. I want to provide a positive place for them.

There are so many myths surrounding Autism in particular. For example, that they are not very imaginative due to the fact that they cannot think abstractly. Whereas, they are incredibly imaginative. Not all but a lot. I even hate using the term 'they', Michelle remarked.

Having a sister with special needs too, Michelle understands the vulnerability, the positive and negative feelings and need for confidentiality. Réalta conduct One to One Speech and Drama classes for children and adults with Autism, Down Syndrome and those with other varying special needs and challenges. These sessions are specialised to the requirements of the individual.

The objective is to increase the person's confidence, social skills and most importantly to have lots of fun! Lessons include basic levels of poetry, articulation exercises, storytelling, Mime and much more.

Owner of Réalta school of Speech and Drama, Michelle has trained with the Galassi School of Speech and Drama where she qualified with an Associate in Teaching through the Irish Board of Speech and Drama. Since then, she has gained much experience in working with children in stage school and in the area of Autism. She also has completed courses in Early Intervention in Communication and in Childcare Management.

The passion for this work is evident upon meeting or talking with Michelle, she is all about helping those who find it difficult to express themselves. From both her personal and professional experience, she has a great understanding of the sensory needs of those with Autism. Michelle incorporates music and drama as both act as methods of communication for a person with Autism, Down Syndrome and other conditions.

“Before arranging a session, we ask parents/guardians some questions about their child's ability so we can cater the classes to their specific needs and goals. Each session is forty minutes long and takes place in the client's home.

“My whole belief is once you build up the confidence in a person, that everything else improves from there. That's my true belief! Positive reinforcement all the way. Hearing things from a parent like my child is now “oozing with confidence” reinforces to me just how important my role is and that is again why I love it so much,” smiled Michelle.

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