Fears James could lose out
James Garvey, aged three, is at risk of losing services which will help him learn to walk, talk, eat, interact with others, even turn the pages of a book.
The Bray boy goes to St Catherine's 'Four Winds' in Newcastle for between three and six hours per month.
The St Catherine's Association, with facilities across County Wicklow, has received a blow with the news that their funding will be cut by €500,000 and pre-school services will be cut.
James receives physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and hydrotherapy at the main EDC pre-school facility in Newcastle.
James has Down's Syndrome as well as related behavioural and physical challenges. His father Patrick explained that he is developmentally behind even other children with Down's syndrome.
'We believe he is on the severe to profound end but he is so behind we still haven't been able to gauge it.'
James has not mastered chewing, and is prone to choking on his food unless supervised by his mum Sandra, his dad or grandad.
'To be told that he must go to a mainstream school doesn't make sense,' said Patrick, who explained that the HSE have a new policy that all children should be integrated into mainstream schools.
'It's unfair to ask a mainstream school to attend to his needs. They don't have the expertise necessary.' James can't hold toys or books, and Patrick said that he would not be able to participate in the activities in a mainstream childcare facility.
One local Montessori operator said that while she would be very reluctant to say no to anybody, it would be challenging to manage the rest of the children if one child required a high level of care. She explained that the guidelines lay out that there be two adults per 22 children. In effect you would be losing one teacher providing for one child.
The Garveys have two other children aged four and one. While their one-year-old girl is already walking, James is not, however when he learned to sit up by himself and crawl the family celebrated these small victories. 'It's all down to the therapies he gets at St Catherine's,' said Patrick. He added that the three siblings get on very well with each other.
'We have a great service. St Catherine's is a fantastic organisation. This is a step backwards,' said Patrick. 'We have to battle for this for our child.'