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Friday 22 September 2017

Mum's grit gets special needs summer camp up and running

Valerie Donovan with her daughter Sarah (7) who has Asperger’s, and her son Matthew (4) who has autism. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Valerie Donovan with her daughter Sarah (7) who has Asperger’s, and her son Matthew (4) who has autism. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Elaine Keogh

A summer camp set up for children with special needs, by a mother of two children on the autism spectrum, opens its doors this week.

Valerie Donovan, from Laytown, Co Meath, set up the initiative as she wanted to help the "most vulnerable" people in the community.

Ms Donovan's daughter Sarah (7) has Asperger's, while her son Matthew (4) has autism.

When she discovered there were more than a dozen families near her in east Meath who would not have the traditional 'July provision' activities for their children with special needs, she took things into her own hands.

She said: "We did not want our children, the most vulnerable in the community, to lose out. Other children, who do not have extra needs or special needs, can sign up to any camp they want without any second thoughts.

"For some reason a lot of children with special needs have not been able to secure a place in July provision.

"I'm on the committee of Julianstown Community Centre so I asked would they be willing to let me hold a summer camp there for one week in July.

"They agreed and then I contacted Meath Sports Partnership where there was amazing help. They are sponsoring the cost of getting trained staff in to work with the children."

So far there is a Zumba teacher, a karate instructor, an art class in sensory clay modelling and a yoga teacher.

"All of this is only possible thanks to Meath Sports Partnership," she said.

The partnership put her in touch with Tennis Ireland, Leinster rugby, the FAI and organisations for other sports including pitch and putt and gymnastics.

"As a result we have slots booked in for the children in rugby, gymnastics and I'm hoping of securing FAI involvement too," she said.

Paul's Pet Parties will visit the camp, as will Olivia's Special Horses, who will provide riding lessons for the children. They will also give the parents and children a tour of their stables.

The children will also visit Dublin Zoo during the week. However, Ms Donovan is still hoping to secure additional funding to cover the costs of the different activities.

She says the demand for teachers to provide July provision far outstrips the number of teachers available.

Irish Independent

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