Breda Redmond, Ann Timoney, Mary Frances Murray, Laura Doherty and Jessica McHugh.
The walls of St. Crone’s National school are adorned with paintings of heroic mythological creatures but the true heroes glide on a daily basis through the corridors of this school.
On Tuesday last, Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) carried out their everyday duties with their students. Some SNAs have cared for students who are profoundly and severely disabled since they were junior infants and the close relationship between them and their students is clearly apparent, almost tangible.
A fundaraising event is being run in Dungloe to raise monies for much needed equiment at this school on September 17th.
The acclaimed Pete Storm brings his Elvis Tribute Show to the Stepping Stone in aid of this worthy cause.
The room from which the SNAs work is facilitated with a hoist, special chairs, areas of rest and recreation and other vital equipment.
The school which has 273 students cares for four students who are severely and profoundly disabled.
Teacher Mary Frances Murray works full-time with the four students. She smiles as she says that she and her SNAs reap great rewards from the work they do.
“This work is totally different. You feel like you’re making a difference,” she said.
She adds that more resources are critical to help the student’s progression.
“We work on developing communication skills, sensory awareness, cognitive skills and gross motor skills,” she said.
Ms. Murray wants to facilitate some of her students with a dark room to help them with Cortical Visual Impairment (CVI).
She said: “Each child has their own individual needs prioritised. For example, some children have a diagnosis of Cortical Visual Impairment so we need to work with them in a dark room as they respond better to colour presented in a darkened room or simplified environment.”
The children also enjoy massage, body brushing and tac-pac programmes. These are communication and sensory programmes.
“These children need lots of sensory input and are given opportunities for sensory play with water, foam, tactile toys throughout the day,” she said.
The walls of the room are covered with creative work and pictures of smiling children, these raise the spirits of all who are offered an opportunity to witness the wonderful work that is being carried out in this room.
During the summer holidays, the children go to school and enjoy fun activities. This summer they went glamping in the assembly hall. The children got inside sleeping bags and inside a tent a teacher could be heard reading them stories in hushed tones.
In another room, a student was being fed his lunch by his SNA - it was evident they were both enjoying the activity.
Meanwhile, a young student lay on a flat surface in a room, the room was dark and she was watching lit dolphins swim across the ceiling.
Her hands were working through a series of lights which comforted her as she listened to soothing music from the CD player on the wall.
Headmaster, Michael O’Donnell was in the school. Walking through the corridor, he smiles as he describes the great work that is being carried out at the school.
He is very proud of all those affiliated with the school and especially proud of the relationship between all the students in the school.
Ms. Murray said that the Health Service Executive (HSE) are very supportive to those who work in the school, especially in terms of occupational therapy and physiotherapy.
“They call to the class regularly and recommend appropriate equipment and resources.
“Due to the lack of the funding within the HSE itself, they are not always in a position to purchase equipment but they are exceptionally supportive,” Ms. Murray said.
Well known charity worker, Beatrice Farrelly has visited the school on a number of occasions. The Elvis lover often runs charity events through her Elvis club which has raised over eleven thousand euros for local charities.
On September 17th, she has invited the incredible Elvis tribute artist, Pete Storm to come and entertain the masses to raise funds for what the children at the Dungloe based school critically need.
“We would like to buy a ballroom for the sensory room which is also used by children with autism, and more special lights would be a great help.”
She added that she was told adapted ipads would greatly benefit the children,” she said.
The fundraising event takes place in the Stepping Stone in Dungloe on September 17th, doors open at 9pm and admission is €10.