Tuesday 20 March 2018

Breaking point for special school

Alison Comyn

PARENTS OF pupils in St Mary's Special School, Drumcar, are calling on increased funding for services for their 'forgotten children'

They say services such as physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy are so infrequent in the school now, they are genuinely concerned for the health and development of their challenged sons and daughters.

'Services at the school are not at breaking point, they are broken,' says Matthew Ronan from Termonfeckin, secretary of the Parents' Association, and father of Sadhbh (11), a pupil of the school.

'We have met with the HSE and Director of Services of St John of God's, which runs the school, to try and clarify what funding is being spent on these vital services, but we have had no joy.

'We have now reached a dead end and want answers. Meanwhile our children's progress has ground to a halt, and we are all seriously frustrated.'

Matthew's daughter has been a pupil since 2007, and has had just three speech and therapy sessions in the past eight months.

'She can't speak at all, and the classes are so important to her progression, yet she is being forgotten in all of this,' he says angrily.

One speech therapist left a few months ago, and hasn't been replaced.

'There is no way the other two staff members can possibly look after the 70 plus pupils we have here, never mind all the other facilities they are expected to cover.'

Parent Gillian Smulllen explains that her four-year-old son Gavin's progress has also slipped back in recent months.

'Talking used to be his strongest point, and now he is not getting the classes, his progress has plateaued, and he is showing behavioural problems out of frustration,' she says.

Drogheda woman Sabrina Kierans' son Hayden Gregory (7) has also suffered the same consequences, with just two sessions in two years.

'How can anyone expect an improvement with those hours, everytime our children are seen, it's like starting again,' she tells the Drogheda Independent.

'Physiotherapy sessions should also be at least every two weeks, and you are lucky if they are once a month.'

'Our children can't go to schools like St Ita's, but they have as much right to an education as any child.'

Meetings with the relevant parties in the HSE and St John of God's have yielded no answers to their questions on funding, and parents now say they have reached a dead end.

'We simply want to know how much of the funding given to the John of God's from the HSE goes to services in our school, but we do not know,' adds Matthew.

'We have once again called a meeting for parents, board of management , HSE and Director of Services of St John of God's, so we hope this time we may get the answers, and the services, our children deserve.'

The meeting is scheduled for 7pm in the school on Monday May 26th, and all interested parties are welcome to attend. For more information on the meeting, contact Matthew on 086 0852182, Gillian 0n 085 1080404 or Sabrina on 086 2405388.

Drogheda Independent