Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has visited St Joseph’s College, Coalisland, where he officially opened their specialist centre for children and young people on the autism spectrum.
The Centre first opened for pupils in September 2011 and the official opening provides an opportunity to celebrate the achievements made in its first year. During the visit the Minister was given a tour of the Centre and had the opportunity to meet with pupils, parents, and staff.
The Minister said: “It is a pleasure to be in St Joseph’s College to celebrate the opening of the new Learning Centre and I would like to thank PJ Campbell, the Principal, for inviting me to participate in this special event. Having met with the pupils and some of their parents it is clear that the teachers and staff are doing an excellent job and are making a real difference to the lives of the young people attending the Centre.
“The children are being taught in an educational environment tailored to meet their special educational needs. As well as accessing small group teaching and periods of individualised support they are also able to benefit from social and curricular integration with their mainstream peers. This approach is in line with my Department’s aim of educating children with special educational needs within mainstream settings where possible, ensuring they benefit both educationally and socially."
In conclusion the Minister said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my visit to St Joseph’s today and I thank everyone involved for their warm welcome. I want to wish everyone involved with the autism centre as well as the wider school community every success for the future. I am sure that through your continuing hard work and professional dedication, many more children on the autistic spectrum in this area will be enabled to thrive in school.”