Cork pupils with autism to debut Christmas film in local cinema

Cork pupils with autism to debut Christmas film in local cinema
The Three Little Pigs get ready for filming: Rían Kenneally, Mikey O’Donoghue and Lorcan

It's lights, camera, action for a group of young Cork students who are preparing to debut their Christmas production on the big screen of their local cinema.

The six students of Síolta Beaga, a special junior class for children with autism in Bunscoil Mhuire, will shortly premiere their Christmas movie at the Regal Cinema in Youghal.

This year's motion picture, which is based around the story of 'The Three Little Pigs', will premiere to their friends and families next Monday in the cinema's largest theatre, which seats 100 people.

Every year, the students put together a festive play, explained their teacher Susan Conway.

“But as a live show could be stressful for some of the children, instead we record clips and piece them together to make a movie,” she said. “We used to invite the mammies and daddies in to our classroom and watch the film on the white board. But the sound wasn’t amazing and our classroom would become very cluttered.

Our classroom is a safe space for students so we’d be worried that having that many people in might cause some stress.

Special junior classes are smaller, quieter classes for children with autism, where work can be tailored for them, according to Ms Conway, who leads the class, along with special needs assistants (SNAs) Ann and Jacqui.

Students from Síolta Beaga: Rían Kenneally, Mikey O’Donoghue, Méabh Kelleher, Lorcan, Dion Daly, Luke Walsh
Students from Síolta Beaga: Rían Kenneally, Mikey O’Donoghue, Méabh Kelleher, Lorcan, Dion Daly, Luke Walsh

“I have six wonderful children in my class. Some of the students just love performing, other students are quieter but they have all really stepped outside of their comfort zones. Some children have been with us since the beginning [when the class was set up five years ago].”

“The students love music so we have tried to bring as many songs as possible - Dolly Parton, the Beatles, and it's amazing to see how quickly they pick the songs up.”

Other musical numbers include ‘Time to Say Goodbye’ by Andrea Bocelli, Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing’, and ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ from Toy Story.

“Mammies and daddies tell us as well that the students will be listening to their songs on Youtube at home on repeat," Ms Conway added. Each students' character was chosen with their talents in mind. Costumes were also selected, taking into account any of the students' sensory differences.

“We have been practicing since the end of August and learning songs since September," Ms Conway said. "The students have become much more comfortable. It's amazing that they never get tired of practicing. Seeing the progress they have made is very worthwhile.

They are very excited to see their faces on the big screen. A show is a school experience you never forget, and all the little steps you have to make to get there so we really are so proud of them.

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