OVER €10,000 has been raised by a Shannon school in their quest to create a sensory room for their multiple disability class called Aoibhneas.

St Tola’s National School is one of a very few amount of schools in the country with a multiple disability class attached to their school allowing the children to be integrated for part of the day into a mainstream classroom.

Five pupils with significant medical needs are currently enrolled in the class. The fundraiser which is on GoFundMe has the goal of creating a sensory room for the children in Aoibhneas.

Fiona Burke who is the teacher of Aoibhneas explained, “A sensory room can help them improve their visual, auditory and tactile processing and fine and gross motor skills. It’s an area that provides a sense of calm and comfort. A sensory room will also be a fantastic addition to the school for the pupils in our ASD class and any children in our school who may need a quiet space during the day”.

Kilmaley native Fiona has been teaching in the Shannon school for the past fourteen years. She has taught the multiple disability class since it opened in September 2021. Prior to this she loved teaching senior infants but is more than content in her new role.

Ordinarily children with the needs presenting in Aoibhneas, they must have a dual diagnosis, would attend a special school where an occupational therapist, physiotherapist and nurse would be on site but in St Tola’s this work falls to Fiona and the rotating team of special needs assistants (SNAs), Vivien Rafferty, Sinead Lenihan. Siobhan Casey, Aileen Purcell but only one SNA is officially allocated to the class by the Department of Education.

Children in Aoibhneas have been made “feel part of the community” by the school’s decision to set up the class, Fiona reflected. “For two of the children, they wouldn’t be able for the bus journey to Ennis or Limerick, there isn’t an option for them, their parents wanted them in the local community naturally enough”.

As part of the fundraising, all students completed a ‘Witches Walk’ around Shannon in October which was led by the pupils in Aoibhneas. “It was quite emotional to see the children leading the whole school, every child from Junior Infants to Sixth Class were so proud to see them lead the walk around the town centre, they were even greeted by people who recognised the children on the way”.

In January, a new prefab was opened in the school, the months prior to this saw the class use an area in the hall “which is not suitable for children with those needs,” Fiona acknowledged. An allocation from the Department was used to kit out the room with furniture and a whiteboard. “It is really important to have a sensory room, schools don’t have money at the minute so we decided as a school to see how we could come up with a fundraiser for the children”.

She added, “For me within the class we’re like our own family, the parents are truly amazing, they are so thankful and extremely supportive, I wouldn’t be able to do it without the SNAs I work with. Our principal, Mary Dunlea Fitzgerald has been a fantastic support as has been other staff members, it’s a school effort”.

To donate to the fundraiser, click HERE. 

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