The Laois school for children with severe to profound disabilities has found a way to help them enjoy physical education time, with the one-to-one care and attention that they require.
Kolbe Special School in Portlaoise has 41 students and staff are kept busy caring for them and teaching them, leaving little time for one-to one activities.
There is also no longer space for PE in the school due to a rise in numbers of pupils.
Last year the school decided to try to find a way to provide all students with more PE activities, while integrating them more into community life.
Teacher Yvonne Hennessy is also the co-ordinator of the project.
She explains why activities are so important to children with serious disabilities.
“It improves their competancy in motor skills, asw ell as thei rself esteem, their social skills and their motivation in many areas of life.
“Because they have such profound needs, we had to find creative ways to ensure that all the students can be success in PE,” she said.
They enlisted the help of the Sports Inclusion Officer in Laois Sports partnership, Catriona Slattery.
“She got on board and was absolutely brilliant,” Ms Hennessy said.
Catriona got in touch with Cork based Cara training centre to run a training course for students.
“We had students coming on work experience to Kolbe before, but they had no specific role. This program gives structured two days of training, it meant that students can be ready to undersatand the severe and profound needs of our pupils. They knew what to do, how to interpret non-verbal communication, and they then also learn tolerance and teamwork skills,” Ms Hennessy said.
The next step was to find students, and she was delighted to get the help of Deirdre Bailey, TY Co-ordinator in Scoil Chriost Ri in Portlaoise.
Last Tuesday the first set of four girls came along with the students to help them enjoy an aquatics class in Portlaoise Leisure Centre.
“The girls were really good, due to their training, they were straight in and knew what they needed to do. We had them and Laois Sports Partnership staff in the pool with us. It is invaluable to our children,” the teacher said.
Every four weeks this year , a new set of four students from Chríost Rí will work with different children on different activities, including dance, gymnastics, outdoor and indoor games.
“We hope it is going to be a real success. It will be a real gain for everyone involved, each child will get support, everyone will get to participate at the same time, they will build new relationships and they are not being segregated from the community,” the Kolbe teacher said.
Below: student Evan Fowler back from a swim, with teacher Yvonne Hennessy and principal Orlagh Mahon.