Monday 23 April 2018

'When you have a special needs child, special occasions become bittersweet' - Single mum reaches out to Ryan Tubridy after heartbreaking letter

Ryan Tubridy
Ryan Tubridy
Clare Cullen

Clare Cullen

A single mother with a special needs son has spoken to Ryan Tubridy about the trails she faces following yesterday's letter featured on the show.

Single mum Nollaig (43) spoke to Ryan Tubridy about her autistic son Sean (13) following the feature of a letter on the radio show yesterday.

She had emailed the presenter after he read out a letter from a single mother who described being unable to buy her 22-year-old son a Christmas present like other boys his age, instead having to opt for "basically a rattle if it makes the right noise".

Nollaig told Ryan that the letter resonated with her experiences of having a special needs son.

"When you have a special needs child, special occasions become bittersweet... they are great, but there's always a comparison...".

She explained that attitudes are changing for the better in Ireland, but it can still be hard if the disability is mental rather than phsyical.

"Nowadays people are more accepting... it's hard when they can't see the disability, but as soon as they realise... they're more accepting".

Séan is "non-verbal" and "makes a lot of noise" to deal with things he finds tough. "I understand what he means when he sings or creates noise.. but what I wouldn't give for an hour in his head".

"When he's sad you don't know why, and that's hard".

She explained that while she and Séan spend Christmas with family, it can still be tough as Séan "can't cope with parties and crowds". "He loves the food, though", she added.

She sympathised with the letter writer's revelation that she buys herself a present from her son for under the tree, as she also buys herself a present "to wrap up and put under the tree".

"You know what you're going to get", she laughed.

"He had no interest in presents for years...  A lot of things that mainstream kids do automatically you have to show them how to do manually, (like) you have to have your hand over theirs opening presents".

Nollaig explained that her situation is getting harder as her son gets older. She shared that taking Séan swimming is an example of how the situation has changed.

"He used to come into me with the ladies and then he got too old, so he would go in on the men's side... but now someone has complained on the men's side because he has no sense of modesty, shall we say".

"The older he gets the harder it is people are afraid of him because  hes taller than me now. If he's running... the initial reaction is to shy back when you see him coming at you, and then you see his face... and that there was no malice there".

Ryan Tubridy replied that "society isn't equipped well enough for the single parent" to which Nollaig said "yet".

"They're getting there.... if we endure it now, people in the future won't have to".

Nollaig told Ryan that she "just can't go there" in relation to thinking about the future.

"He has no siblings... what happens when I'm too old?"

"You can't go there".

She added that she has no savings due to having "one income instead of two".

"It's not that I don't have a good job but my money has been spent on therapy over the years".

"I think you get to a stage where you say what can I do today to fix this worry today and what can i let go".

"You could worry yourself constantly.... you have to have faith that things will work out or you'd go mad!"

Nollaig is involved with a surfing program for special needs children and asked Ryan to put her in touch with the letter writer to invite her son along.

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