Rachel’s simple wish: Heal my brother’s autism

The essay was entitled: “I wish, I wish, I wish.” In it, nine-year-old schoolgirl Rachel Cahill wrote of a simple request — that her brother, who had been diagnosed with autism, would be cured.

“Since my little brother Matthew was two, I have always had the same wish. When Matthew was two, he was diagnosed with autism. Autism has no cure. Some children with autism can talk, understand and communicate, but Matthew can’t.

“When you have autism, your brain is different. Matthew would hear things more loudly than us, he feels things more differently and sees things we don’t.” She continues: “So ever since Matthew was diagnosed with autism, my wish was for Matthew’s autism to be healed.”

Rachel’s story was so remarkable it prompted teacher Kathryn Lenaghan to write to Rachel’s parents. In the letter she described the nine-year-old as an “extraordinary child” whose positive attitude touched lives.

“Every person needs a Rachel in their lives. Keep doing what you’re doing Rachel and you will touch the lives of many people. We are very proud of you here,” Ms Lenaghan of St Paul’s NS in Navan wrote.

Mum Caroline admits she cried when she saw the story and cried even more at the teacher’s response. Although written in February, she asked for the letter to be highlighted today, Wednesday, which marks World Autism Awareness Day.

“The story is so simple but it shows Rachel really understands what’s going on in her brother’s world. She’s so kind and will always ask for Matthew to be cured. She asks for it in her prayers at night and every Christmas when she’s writing her letter to Santa, she says: ‘Mam, I know what I’d really like but I know I can’t have it, which is for Matthew to be better’.

Caroline and her husband Mark have two other sons, Shane, 11, and Jayden, 2, who are just as sensitive to Matthew’s condition.

She said: “Matthew has severe autism. He doesn’t talk at all and has very limited understanding. For me, the communication is the hardest part and causes the most frustration for both him and me.

“He self-harms by biting the backs of his hands until they’re bleeding, pinching his arms and legs until they’re bruised and slapping himself hard in the face. It’s absolutely heart-breaking to watch. He is currently in a pre-school autism unit at St Stephen’s NS in Johnstown, Navan, and is doing really well.

“Rachel’s story just blew us away. We always knew she was a special, kind little girl, and we are so proud of her. When you’ve a child with special needs, you tend to be more focused on them than the other siblings and you take for granted just how good the others are,” she concluded.

The family is fundraising to build a new sensory room for Matthew at their house at Fitzherbert Court and are holding a table quiz next Friday, April 11, in the Stonehouse in Navan.

Further information on fundraising available at friendsofmatthew21@gmail.com.

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