New pre-school for autistic children to open this month

New pre-school for autistic children to open this month

By Mary Dennehy

A TALLAGHT primary school teacher is opening a new pre-school for children with autism, following research she carried out with 11 local families living with autism in the home.

Katherine McKenna has been doing home-schooling with children who have been expelled, have special needs or are spending long periods of time in hospital for the past five years.

Katherine Mckenna. resized

Qualified as a primary school teacher, Katherine also did a masters on special education – during which she chose to do her thesis on the accessibility and availability of support and services for children with autism.

She told The Echo: “During my research I interviewed 11 families and it wasn’t until I sat down and talked with them that I realised the extent of the problem concerning autism services and how isolated families are – it was actually quite upsetting.

“Most parents told me how they are really happy with the services when they get them, but that there are really long waiting lists.”

Katherine has now put her teaching experience and research into the opening of a special pre-school called Rays of Sunshine for children, aged between 2.5 and six years, living with autism.

“I wanted to create something that would make a difference to families and give each child all of the services they need under one roof,” Katherine said.

“The tutors are paid by the Department of Education and Skills, with parents subsidising the extra services – and paying no more than your average pre-school.

“Each child will work with a tutor on a one-to-one basis and will have their own individual plan and, over the 20-hour week, will work with a speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, play therapist and drama and social skills therapist. 

“The children will also receive three Pranic Healing sessions, this is a non-touch, highly developed and tested energy system that promotes balance and harmony.

“We will also be leaving the pre-school to go on visits and will invite parents along.
“Bringing children with autism out can be challenging and some parents find it very difficult to leave the house.

“However, together we can support each other and we can come up with travel plans for each of the children.”

Parental involvement is key to the new pre-school, with support for parents, such as relaxation, breathing techniques and massage, being offered.

There will also be monthly information evenings for parents, with Katherine linking in with existing support groups and inviting parents to contribute ideas for the growth and direction of the pre-school.

Running in the Firhouse Community and Leisure Centre in Tallaght, Rays of Sunshine is starting with a limited number of children this September 21, but is hoping to expand after the initial semester.

For further details about the school contact Katherine on 087 6410110 or email

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