The Dyspraxia Association of Ireland fears it will have to close after Christmas — despite a nationwide fundraising effort by nearly 1,000 families who receive support from the voluntary organisation.
The 18-year-old association — which can count British singer Florence Welch as one of its biggest supporters — looks set to be dissolved unless it can find core funding.
Development officer Harry Conway has been made redundant after working with the association for the last five years when corporate funding which covered his wages ran out. He fears he will have to close the service down in the coming months as he is unable to carry on without any source of funding.
“We’ve battled on in the hope of getting funding and we’ve applied to all the funding streams available but we’ve received nothing.
“Even if we got enough funding to keep the helpline going and manned this would be terrific. Today, the desk went unmanned as we rely solely on the help of volunteers.
“I’ll go back to the office now and there’ll be up to a dozen calls from parents and even teachers asking for help to detect the signs and advice on what to do.
“I was working on a salary on a three-day week but the money went so now I’m doing the work voluntarily.
“However, I don’t want to use fundraising money to pay me — we need core funding to keep the group going,” he said.
Founded in 1995 as a registered charity, the association now has a full board of directors.
Dyspraxia is a difficulty with thinking out, planning and carrying out sensory motor tasks. Often “simple” tasks like tying a shoe lace, dressing, holding a knife or fork or playing football can be impossible for a dyspraxic to carry out. Many dyspraxics were often referred to a “clumsy”, according to Mr Conway.
The association runs 14 different groups throughout Ireland, offering support and aid to parents both waiting to get their child assessed and those whose children have been diagnosed with the condition.
“Research shows that there are one to two children in every classroom in Ireland with dyspraxia,” said Mr Conway.
“Many go undetected and for parents who seek help, three out of four have to access medical services privately. Usually dyspraxia affects more boys than girls, at a ratio of 3 to 1.”
If left undetected, adults with dyspraxia often suffer with acute self-esteem issues, depression and often end up with other mental health issues, according to Mr Conway.
In recent times, Dyspraxia Ireland has gained the support of singer Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine who herself is a dyspraxic. She has visited here a number of times to speak on the subject at the behest of Dyspraxia Ireland.
Mums Niamh Watson and Colette Stanley say only for the association, they would still be waiting to get their sons diagnosed with the condition.
Niamh said: “My son Ruairi, 11, was diagnosed this time last year. It was a really difficult time and I received wonderful support and advice from Harry and all the professionals at hand. With their support, I was able to access private health professionals who diagnosed Ruairi with dyspraxia within a week of initially speaking with Dyspraxia Ireland.
“There is a waiting list of a year- and-a-half for assessment with the HSE in many areas. I only got my appointment last week after applying last December. Thankfully, I was able to get help much sooner because of Harry.
“Dyspraxia affects fine motor movements and things like dressing, holding a knife or fork or kicking a football can be hard. Sometimes people think they’re lazy or clumsy which adds to their low self-esteem.”
Colette Stanley, also from Co Meath, always knew her son Cian, now 11, was “different” to her three other children.
“He was still not walking or talking at age two and I knew something was wrong, even though everyone told me not to worry. At four, I had to bring Cian to a speech therapist who had him talking in full sentences by age four.
“It was only when he was in first class that his teacher mentioned the possibility of dyspraxia but I didn’t know where to go for information and neither did she.
“When he was finally diagnosed three years ago and I sat down and explained it to Cian — he smiled and said: ‘Thank You, Mammy!’ He had thought he was just clumsy and now he knew there was something that could be done.”
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