Yvonne O’Toole, whose nine-year-old son Jake is autistic, began phoning Irish Autism Action (IAA) three years ago for help, but she has still to receive a call back.
This is despite her joining as a member of IAA — costing €20 a year — and raising hundreds of euro for the charity through coffee mornings.
IAA is the country’s leading autism charity, from which former Boyzone singer Keith Duffy stepped down as a patron last year.
Ms O’Toole told the Irish Examiner that she got “nothing” from the charity.
“You’re meant to join them [IAA] as a member, you pay €20 for a membership card. I got one for one year [initially] because I wasn’t sure what they even were at the time. When I got my card I could ring them up when I had problems,” she said.
“I made the call to IAA three years ago when Jake was getting worse and I’m still waiting on a phonecall back. I said it to Brian [Murnane, CEO of IAA] out straight. I said: ‘Three years ago I rang and I told you Jake was self- harming so badly I don’t know what I’m going to do.’
“I never got a response. I rang and I rang and I rang. I did keep on ringing because that’s how desperate we were but we needed the answers three years ago and still now, even though I made that phonecall three years ago, and the phonecall after that. Nobody rang me back in the last three years to ask how Jake was. So what’s the point?”
She is one of several parents behind ‘Irish Autism Mammys,’ a group with 1,500 members, who organised a public meeting with Mr Murnane.
The meeting was called to address parents’ concerns over the lack of direct services that the charity was providing.
“My son is nine years old and he has been officially diagnosed by Professor Michael Fitzgerald [of child and adolescent psychiatry]. He was diagnosed in September 2014. Jake has Aspergers, he has sensory processing disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, that’s Jake’s diagnosis.”
She was a paid member of the charity for two years before deciding to cancel her membership.
“I paid two years, 2014 and 2015, and I got nothing, nothing, nothing.
“They sent me a leaflet and I put it in the wheelie bin because it wasn’t what I was looking for.
“It wasn’t going to aid me to get Jake any help or services so I did it myself, like what most mammies end up doing,” she said.
Ms O’Toole closed her business in order to care for her son and also organised fundraisers for IAA.
“I did coffee mornings a couple of times for IAA, I donated €350 the first year, I donated €165 the second time I did it. Then after that I stopped, it was going nowhere,” she said.
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