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Mother of autistic children takes on teacher roles as Covid halts special needs supports

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Hardworking mother Carol Lennon with her son Tristan, who has been offered a place at UCD

Hardworking mother Carol Lennon with her son Tristan, who has been offered a place at UCD

Hardworking mother Carol Lennon with her son Tristan, who has been offered a place at UCD

A law student who is homeschooling three of her children who have autism says she now has to carry out seven roles because supports have been taken away due to Covid restrictions.

Carol Lennon says as well as being a carer for her children, she is now a physiotherapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, counsellor, psychologist and, since Monday, a teacher.

She said she is studying human rights while her children have been robbed of theirs in education.

On Monday, the mother of five began homeschooling Junior Certificate pupil Tiegan, Leaving Certificate student Logan and 13-year-old Xylan at her home in Mornington, Co Meath.

To keep the teenagers motivated in free periods, she has designed visual instructions to teach them how to use the washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher.

"If I don't keep the kids motivated, they'll disappear back to their rooms and it will be a nightmare to get them back down," she said.

"So far Xylan is loving it - you should see the amount of washing he is getting through.

"Homeschooling is hard for parents anyway but when you have three children with autism there is the added meltdowns, anxiety and everything else to deal with.

"You always have to be one step ahead to be able to anticipate any problems that might crop up.

"I'm timetabled to teach from 8.30am to 3.30pm with a short break, while trying to get my study done for an exam in a few weeks."

Ms Lennon's eldest child Tristan (18) was recently offered a place in a UCD genetics course after she fought to get the additional resources he needed in school to have the same chance as any other pupil.

"These are the additional supports that my children normally get which have been stopped temporarily because of Covid," she said.

"I am now following the schedules of teachers whose main focus is my child and their educational development.

"These teachers will not know the dynamics in my household nor could I expect them to.

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"I am one person.

"If my home was a school setting, it would be receiving financial resources for the printer and heating and a staff of one qualified teacher and two special needs assistants as well as other supports."

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