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(Ireland) Parents desperate for special needs help during summer

July 17, 2022, Irish Examiner: 'If we didn't get a few hours home support I'd be found dead somewhere' https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40919813.html
Parents of children with complex special educational needs want summer programmes for their children to be included in the school year, with many "dreading the summer" because of the lack of support.
It comes as Anne Rabbitte, the Minister for Disabilities, said that Ireland needs to look at a ‘Maltese model’, where children with special educational needs continue attending school for the entire summer.

Ms Rabbitte suggested using trainees in different therapies to help keep routines for students with the most complex needs provided for through Summer Programmes, previously known as July Provision.

Karen Crowley’s son Fionn is 17. He has autism, an intellectual disability and is non-verbal. Living in Bandon, he attends St Gabriel’s special school in Cork, which is not running summer provision this year as the school is being renovated.

“We’re finding it hard over the summer. We do get a bit of support at home but if we didn’t, I’d be found dead somewhere. It is a long summer for them without any structure….

When asked about the suggestion of using trainees in different therapies, Ms Crowley said: “I think it would be a brilliant thing. There are a lot of families who can’t get provision for the summer, and they just have to get on with things. It’s not good enough. Parents shouldn’t have to worry about this at the end of the year, every year.”

Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) who take part should be paid the same rate as teachers, she said….

“For the whole time Christopher is off, it’s at home.”

As a result, Linda “dreads” the summer holidays. “It’s really tough. Last July, without a routine, he ended up with self-harming behaviors, hitting his head, bruises on his legs and I had to go to CAMHS.”

He was hitting windows, and he had calluses on his hands. It’s just frustration and boredom because there is nothing, there is nowhere he can go.

Linda said she found his special school’s decision not to run a school-based programme “even harder.”

“I saw the school up for rent for the summer and that was just a kick in the teeth. We [the parents] even offered to be there, it’s not like we want childminders, it’s for our children’s routine. The bus driver even said he would drive there. I just feel unless it’s made mandatory, there is just no way it’s going to work going forward.”

“I feel they were offered everything; they were offered extra money but it’s still not working. It’s not the money at this stage. I don’t think the will to do it is there anymore.

“We were happy with two days a week. Two days is something; It’s a routine. It’s not everything gone. We even wanted to try source our own SNAs if we could but we weren’t given the option.”

Fionn Crowley, aged 17. He has autism, an intellectual disability and is non-verbal. Living in Bandon, he attends St Gabriel’s special school in Cork, which is not running summer provision this year as the school is being renovated.