St Mary's National School to get dedicated pre-school facility for autism

 St Mary’s primary school in Mullingar is to get a new special needs facility for pre-schoolers after being granted planning permission this week. “We would be hoping for the ribbon and scissors in September - or August 29, to be precise,” said principal Bernie McVeigh yesterday (May 15 ). Earlier this week the county council gave the green light for the 156-year-old academy’s plans for a three-room facility at the Carey Bridge end of the campus, with two existing classrooms being renovated for purpose, and a 65sqm, single-storey extension added out the front. There are also plans for a secure sensory garden for the enjoyment of next year’s intake, Ms McVeigh confirmed. She explained that this new facility is for “pre-school children on the autistic spectrum, between the ages of three and five”, and that the Sunflower room opened last year will be incorporated into this new build. The development will be going to tender “very shortly”, and will include “all the necessary internal supports, including a sensory room”. Ms McVeigh pointed out that, because this is a pre-school facility, numbers will be limited to six pupils to each teacher. “It will be a very calm environment, where children can get all the support they need on a one-to-one basis, and are included into mainstream schooling as much as is practicable to develop their social skills,” she said. Ms McVeigh went on to point out that her school already had a dedicated Aistear room as part of its infants curriculum which was already converted this year to limit disruption, and “to get the maximum time out of it”. “We’ve been pretty busy in terms of changes in the last year,” said Ms McVeigh, referring to the arrival of girls in the school at the start of this year for the first time. Before finishing she made a point of highlighting the work of teacher Aisling Kelly, and SNA Stephanie McNevin, whom she said did “sterling work, and are totally dedicated to children with ASD” [autistic spectrum disorder].

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