06 Jul 2022

IN PICTURES: Laois dancer with Autism welcomed by President Higgins

A little Laois Irish dancer met the President of Ireland this week after getting a personal invitation.

Stradbally girl Sophia Farrell, 9, met the President Michael D Higgins, his wife Sabina and beloved dogs Bród and Misneach, at their home in Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin.

It is the latest of Sophia's efforts to raise awareness about the struggles faced by children with hidden disabilities like Autism.

She overcame her own Autism issues to follow her dream and become an Irish Dancer, winning an Open Leinster championship last March. Back then she shared her story with the Leinster Express, kickstarting her personal campaign to raise national awareness for other children coping with issues.

Read her original story below.

She was accompanied up to the Áras by her father Kristian, stepdad Andrew and her grandparents, on Saturday afternoon June 18.

She even got to dance for the President and Mrs Higgins.

“Sophia enjoyed every moment. She brought doggy treats for the Presidents' dogs and gifts for the President and his wife. She got to dance for them, a privilege she will cherish forever,” her mother Monica said.

Sophia asked President Higgins to help her make people more accepting, understanding and kinder. She told him some of her own struggles and the difficulties she faces daily.

A pupil of the Lynam School of Irish Dance, Sophia told the President how she loves dancing and praised her suppportive teachers.

“He was so empathetic with her and reassured her that he would continue to promote equality and inclusion, as he has done his entire career,” Monica said.

It follows Sophia's trip to Dáil Éireann in May, by invitation to meet the Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte, and also a commemoration by Laois County Council to award Sophia for her achievement and campaign efforts.

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