Lights, Camera, Action! Youghal’s Síolta Beaga Autism Unit Draws Back the Curtain on Star Pupils

4 of the 6 cast. Rían Kenneally (7) Mikey O'Donoghue(6), Méabh Kelleher (6) and Luke Walsh(8) Other cast members are Lorcan Kenefick (6) and Dion Daly (8).

On Monday, 17 December at 1pm, something very special is in store for the parents, relatives and students of the Síolta Beaga Autism Unit in Bunscoil Mhuire. A recording of their annual class Play, this year a production of “Jack and the Beanstalk”, will be shown on the biggest and best screen of all - Youghal’s Regal Cinema. This screening will not be open to the public, though a few lucky local dignitaries will be invited to give the children an even bigger sense of occasion.   Youghal Library however, will be showing a public screening later in the week where everyone, especially parents struggling with a recent diagnosis of Autism, are encouraged to come along and see for themselves what is possible.

Síolta Beaga teacher Susan Conway said, “On a sensory level, performing can place huge demands on a child with Autism. It can sometimes take weeks or even longer for a child to get used to the feel of a costume on their skin. We often take the ability to sing a song for granted, not realising how complex a task it actually is. Not only must the words of a song be processed, understood and memorised but the children also have to try to sing the words in time to the music and perform the accompanying actions while wearing costumes that often irritate them. The screening is intended as a celebration of everything that a child with Autism can achieve. Nothing about Autism is easy, but our play showcases the wonderful strengths that the children have.  I believe that every child deserves the chance to shine and with patience, perseverance and belief so much is possible. It is amazing to stand back and watch as a child, who had very little language starting school, now reels off 3 lines of script from memory in front of the camera.”

On a personal note, my son is one of the 6 pupils in this amazing little production. On behalf of the other parents who have children in the ASD units at Bunscoil Mhuire as well as those who have children with special needs attending the school, I would like to thank sincerely, all the staff and students for the great support and love they show our children. Bunscoil Mhuire has made Inclusion as important to the school curriculum as academic and sporting endeavours. They not only support our children by standing behind them, but they lift them shoulders high.

Susan Conway, together with SNA’s Ann and Jacqui and previous SNA’s in the unit, have taught our boy to sing. Before that, however, they had to teach him to speak. To ever properly express our utmost gratitude for that alone, his father and I, ironically, will never find the words.