Victoria White’s column, ‘Happy 18th Tom, the State has just blown out candles on your fairytale’ (Irish Examiner, August 1), on education for children/young adults with no short measure of sympathy and understanding was pertinent to me. I am a pensioner and the proud grandfather of a gorgeous little boy with special needs. This is part of my story.
1: My grandson was diagnosed following the formal “assessment of needs” but only after over one and a half years following the request for this key assessment, and only then after a High Court case taken by a support group. The legal position is that an assessment of needs must but carried out within three months of application.
None of this “life-enabling” therapy was provided in the next year and he has only had six sessions of occupational therapy and eight of speech. His private speech therapist recommends daily exercises and a session every two weeks and he is making excellent progress.
2: During the previous general election campaign I mentioned the need for services to a Fine Gael canvasser, I immediately received a letter from the candidate stating that if he got elected (Cork North Central) he would contact me. He got elected, albeit without reaching the quota, but I am still waiting to hear from him.
3: I wrote (a registered letter) to Mr Varadkar, but only got a note from his office advising that my letter had been passed to the Minster for Health — I have heard nothing since from either person.
4: I wrote to Bishop Buckley suggesting that he be more proactive in looking for services for the children that we have with special needs and not just concern himself about abortion. I received no reply.
5: I emailed RTÉ’s Liveline, the Joe Duffy show, but received no reply.
6: I wrote to the chief executive of the ESB (with whom I had previously worked) looking for a contribution to purchase some equipment for the school ASD unit. I received no reply.
7: I have made formal appeals (complaints) to the HSE and the Ombudsman for Children’s Office but to no avail. Apparently the legal position is that the HSE have to carry out the assessment of needs but not the necessary therapy. It is as if that once you have been diagnosed as having a broken leg you must wait for the allocation of funding before you can receive treatment.
8: Most recently I wrote to the Minister for Finance highlighting the anomaly that tax relief for his speech therapy was only at the lower rate and not the actual rate, even though the service should have been provided free of charge by the State. I got a note from his office ”acknowledging my letter”.
So I can quite categorically state: “No one out there gives a damn about our children with special needs.”