Children from the ABACAS School and members of Autism Support Louth&Meath in front of the magnificent Saint Patrick banner they made.
Inclusivity – it’s quite a simple concept, especially for community activities and celebrations such as the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
Thankfully the Drogheda Festival Committee have taken the notion on board and the members of Autism Support Louth&Meath and the children at the ABACAS Special School are very excited to have been invited to take part in the Saint Patricks Day Parade again this year as part of the ‘My Streets’ project.
Local artist Jennifer Moonan has been working with the Autism Support Youth Club members for the past number of weeks making all manner of puppets from scratch using mostly recycled materials.
The youth club members have been totally involved from the beginning, creating the designs, building and decorating the puppets week by week. There has been a great creative input from the members with lots of ideas and suggestions.
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"Our colourful parade is led by an army of snake puppeteers and the giant of a man himself, Saint Patrick" Jennifer said. "All the puppets, props and costumes were researched designed and made by the children, teens and young adults who attend the Autism Support Louth&Meath Youth Clubs."
Autism Support Louth&Meath was established 21 years ago with the idea of setting up the ABACAS Special School which celebrated its 20th birthday on the 7th March.
The group has since gone on to provide parent support, information and training, advocacy and information and six weekly youth clubs, gaming club, fitness friends, music and drama and quiz nights as well as summer camps.
“This is the first time we have taken part in the actual parade so we are delighted to be doing this on the ABACAS 20th anniversary” said Manager Jacinta Walsh.
Another initiative that ABACAS are involved with is ‘Sensory Street’ which they had suggested to the St Patrick’s Day Committee back in 2020 but, while the idea was warmly received by the committee at the time, it was not until last year that Sensory Street became part of the Drogheda parade due to Covid.
“It was a great success” said Jacinta, “It meant that families with children with special needs felt welcome to attend the parade knowing that their child who may be very sensitive to loud noises would be able to enjoy the parade in this area.”
Sensory Street is Dominic Street and when the parade is marching through this area there are no horns or whistles and music is played at a much lower volume.
“All the participants were so accommodating last year and it made such a special day for many families” Jacinta added. “We are delighted to be working with the St Patricks Day Committee again on Sensory Street 2023.”