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The History of Drogheda ABACAS


Drogheda ABACAS is one of 12 schools currently recognised by the Department of Education and Skills in 2011 as a special school established to educate those with autism and complex needs. Drogheda ABACAS has grown from its 2001 parent-led establishment as a centre for children with autism to a DES recognised Special School for Children with Autism and Complex Needs which offers a range of child-centred evidence-based educational programmes strongly focused on helping children with autism reach their individual potential.

The goal of the ABACAS programme is the building of skills for success at home, school, and in the community. The school believes each child, with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, is unique and therefore should have access to a range of evidence-based interventions that meet their individual needs. ABACAS follows this principle with a multi-disciplinary approach to service delivery and a strong focus on evidence-based instructional principles and methodologies such as Positive Behaviour Support (PBS), Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Visuals, Modeling, Direct Instruction, TEACCH and many others in line with the DES policy for special education for children on the autism spectrum. These programmes are founded on empirical evidence and a child-centred learning philosophy; allowing each child to reach his/her own individual goals and progress at their own pace. Drogheda ABACAS follows the curricular programmes prescribed by the Department of Education & Skills, which may be amended from time to time in accordance with Sections 9 and 30 of the Education Act (1998).

Drogheda ABACAS depends on the grants and teacher resources provided by the DES. It also operates within the changing regulations laid down, from time to time, by the Department of Education and Skills. ABACAS have regard for the resources and funding available to meet the individual needs of students and the number of children per class. Training in the basic skills of communication, self-care and key social competences form an integral part of the school programme at all levels.

Children are divided into classes according to their age, skill strengths, developmental need, and their communicative ability.

In 1998 there were no recognised services for children who presented with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The Department of Education and Skills started then to develop a policy. Parallel to that there were a great number of court cases.

To explain how Drogheda ABACAS School began we need to go back in time and mention Autism Support Louth&Meath which is a self-help group of parents in the Louth/Meath area who formed in April 2002 to help children and young people with Autism realise their full potential. Autism Support Louth&Meath founded Drogheda ABACAS School.

Drogheda ABACAS School for Children with Autism opened its doors on the 10th of March 2003 to two pupils and was originally based in Stameen. The school expanded rapidly and today caters for eighteen students at our present home in Fair Street, Drogheda.

Drogheda ABACAS School is one of only three ABACAS Schools in Ireland. The other two are based in Dublin at Kilbarrack and Kilnamanagh.

The school has had tremendous impact on the lives of local children with autism, many of whom are now attending local mainstream schools on a full or part-time basis. All students of Drogheda ABACAS School are empowered to reach their maximum individual potential through educational intervention which is designed specifically for each student and based on their unique talents and aptitudes.

In 2007 following intensive lobbying from parents and supporters a commitment was secured from in the Programme for Government to recognise the former pilot centres as special schools for children with autism.

Discussions started with the Department of Education and representatives of the schools and Irish Autism Action in 2007 and these concluded in 2010 with the Transitional Agreement.

Drogheda ABACAS School was recognised as a Special School on 7th of March 2011.

This transitional period has been challenging for all involved. However, through team work and effort we are acheived permanent recognition of our School as a Special School specifically for children with Autism and Complex Needs in September 2015.

ABACAS achieved recognition as a Secondary Top School in May 2015.

Drogheda ABACAS School recently went through a comprehensive Whole School Inspection with the Inspectorate of the Department of Education. The Inspection report has been published on the Department of Education website. The Inspector was very impressed with the school and remarked that the education he had seen being delivered in Drogheda ABACAS was on a par with the best international practice and he particularly complimented the school on how child centered and appropriate of the education being delivered was and the collaborative working of all staff.

After many years of searching and lobbying for an appropriate school premises the Board of Management secured agreement from the Church and Department of Education to rent Congress Avenue School and following substantial renovation funded by the Department of Education and fundraised monies the school moved to its new home in Sept 2014.

ABACAS expanded by two classes at in Sept 2014 bringing the total number of students to 30.

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