There are two special units in our school called Learning Plazas 1 and 2 that cater for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Learning Plaza 1 is the junior class which caters for four pupils in the age range of 6-8 years. The senior class(Learning Plaza 2) caters for four pupils in the age range of 8-11 years. Most of the pupils travel to the classes on transport provided by the Department of Education and Science.
Curriculum Timetable The curriculum outlined by the Department of Education and Science is available to all children in school. The facilities and resources available to support the various areas of the curriculum ie. history, art, science are also used by the Learning Plaza classrooms. The nature of the diagnosed learning disability for the pupils in these classes dictate that the curriculum is broader and more comprehensive in its composition.
Due to the diverse needs of the children, the curriculum is modified to meet their individual needs. It also takes account of the fact that language and the delivery of a curriculum through language presents a particular difficulty to these pupils.
A great deal of work is done with Speech & Language Development, physical/motor and sensory needs. Methodologies such as T.E.A.C.C.H. and P.E.C.S. are valuable tools that are being used in the classroom.
Additional curricular activities being developed are:
Horse riding - Pegasus Riding Centre
Happy Days - Play activity centre
Dance and movement
SUPPORT OF PARENTS AND OTHER PROFESSIONAL PERSONNEL
The expertise and particular focus given by other professionals and supporting personnel is valued and incorporated into the special class curriculum. It is noted that the class benefits from support by:
-The Board of Management, School Principal and all staff members of Our Lady of Mercy Primary School.
INTEGRATION AND INSERTION The classes are able to join in play activities with friends in the mainstream classes on the playgrounds. All the pupils enjoy all the school activities ie. concerts and seasonal activities. The "Buddy" system is actively promoted and used where suitable. Sports Day and swimming activities are enjoyed by children in the Plazas. This access to an integrated setting is particularly useful in establishing a norm of social integration and peer group interaction.
It is an exciting and challenging place to work in and it is endeavoured to continue to put in place good practice and to acquire and establish an expertise in this area of work with pupils with ASD.