Phones can give voice to pupils with autism

Posted on: 7th April, 2014

Category: News

Contributor: West Cork People

Páistí from Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileain, Clonakilty - Aoife Ní Fhionnlaigh, Dylan deBarra, Lily Munday agus Aoife Ní hIarnáin and staff members Carmel Nic Airt, (Príomhoide); Áine Ní hUailltín, (SNA) agus Máire Ní Chróinín, (Special Education Co-Ordinator) launching the school's used Mobile Phone Appeal.

Gaelscoil Mhichíl Uí Choileáin in Clonakilty has launched an appeal to families of the school and the community of the greater Clonakilty area to donate old mobile phones to the school, which can be turned into a voice for children in the school’s ASD Classes. For every 220 phones collected, Autism Ireland will donate an iPad to a pupil.

Since the initial class was set up in September 2011, teachers and SNA’s have found that iPads are a vital tool of communication for the pupils. Many children with autism have communication difficulties, with some being non-verbal. IPads loaded with specific language and communication apps open up the world of communication for such children. Downloadable apps allow pupils to construct sentences giving them the means to express their opinions, wishes and needs, which their fellow pupils and adults can easily understand.

School Principal Carmel Nic Airt explained that there are nine pupils in the Special Education Classes at present. Children from 2.5 years are catered for in the Early Intervention Class; Junior Infants to Second Class children in the next class and from September 2014, a class dedicated to children from Third to Sixth class has just been sanctioned by the Dept. of Education and Skills. The school from September will be providing a full Primary school placement for Children with diagnosed ASD — the only service of its kind in the West Cork area.

“We have marvellous facilities, including a €43,000 purpose-built Multi-Sensory room, an Occupational Therapy Hall and dedicated Speech and Language rooms along with teachers and SNA’s in the school who together bring out the best in our pupils with autism. We have seen the advantages that iPads bring to the children. But as these devices cost around €550 each, it is not possible for most families to purchase one.

“The Dept. of Education and Skills provide some assistance for Assistive Technology but we aim to allocate an iPad to each individual child in our Autism classes as soon as possible thereby opening up the world of communication for them. Autism Ireland will donate one iPad for every 220 used mobile phones we collect in the school. We are therefore appealing to all families of the school to bring in any old phones they have around the house, or to arrange a collection in their local sports club or workplace.

“We are also very thankful to the local businesses and workplaces who have recently agreed to take collection boxes in their premises. We ask staff and customers visiting O’Donovan’s Hotel; Clonakilty Library; Quality Hotel; Park Leisure Centre; Harte’s Spar; Sally’s SuperValu; Technology Park; Carbery Milk Products; Irish Yogurts; Vodafone Shop and Clonakilty Recycling Centre to please drop their old phones into the collection boxes in those premises.”

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