Shocked parents try to save services for their children
In the wake of cuts to services at St Catherine's Association, parents of children who attend for vital therapies such as speech and language and physiotherapy have expressed fears over the impact such cuts will have.
Aughrim woman Liesa O'Neill, pictured below, says her son Sean, who is now four and a half, has been attending St Catherine's for over two years and has made wonderful progress which could be greatly damaged if his support therapies are reduced.
'Sean was diagnosed with autism and started off in Four Winds in Newcastle and was then placed in Woodmount in Arklow. He attends an early intervention pre school class and gets daily support. He needs these therapies on a regular basis to keep him at the level he has reached. They have improved his life skills immensely and have made mainstream primary school an option. Without them he definitely wouldn't have been able for mainstream. These cuts are going to have an awful impact on children who need them from the start as well. They now might only get them every couple of months instead of weekly. I am afraid that Sean will regress without regular ongoing appointments. I am devastated for Sean as he needs this and not just once in a blue moon. We feel like we are in limbo at the moment,' Liesa explains.
Fellow mother Tara Gorman from Wicklow's daughter Sarah (7) is a pupil at the EDC Special National School in Kilmullen Lane.
'Sarah has Downs Syndrome and moderate learning disability as well as hearing impairment, sight impairment and chronic sleep apnoea. Sarah's future independence depends on these services. Sarah is lucky in the sense that she has been attending St Catherine's from the beginning but there are some children who will fall through the cracks because they will not be accepted for early intervention care. These therapies are massively important for the children and for us St Catherine's has been a lifeline. While the aim of the additional supports is to facilitate children to progress to mainstream, not all of them will be able to do this so what supports will be put in place for them?'
Tara also expressed concerns that if the pre school aged children are forced to move into mainstream pre schools what support services will be made available to them.
All of the parents affected have grave concerns about how sporadic appointments for therapies will be and if there will even be any available for their children in the future.
Following a meeting of the parents it was decided that a number of avenues are to be explored such as their legal standing and what the Wicklow TDs can do to help. A meeting will take place between the parents and St Catherine's Association this evening to discuss the matter further. A Facebook page called SOS Save Our Services has been opened.