We are just so sick of it, say parents of children with autism and special needs

The wind gusted sheets of rain at them as they marched over the River Lee, but as Trina Murphy put it: “We’ve weathered bigger storms like this every day for our kids.”

We are just so sick of it, say parents of children with autism and special needs

Parents of children with autism and special needs who held a protest march in Cork yesterday over the lack of services.

Trina was among the more than 100 people who took part in the Cork element of a string of marches around the country, calling for better state services for children with a disability under the banner ‘Enough is Enough’.

Marches took place in locations around the country, from Letterkenny to Waterford.

There was a large turnout in Sligo and parents spoke directly to Health Minister Simon Harris, about waiting lists for services for children with special needs in Co Wicklow.

The Cork version began in the city centre and involved the handing in of a national petition of 9,000 signatures to government Junior Minister Dara Murphy, then to the North Lee ASD Service on Penrose Wharf, and then on through the heavy drizzle to the HSE’s disability services building in the suburb of Blackpool.

Trina Murphy hands in a petition with 9,000 signatures to staff at the HSE’s disability services office in Blackpool, Cork.
Trina Murphy hands in a petition with 9,000 signatures to staff at the HSE’s disability services office in Blackpool, Cork.

There the marchers again handed in the petition calling for better services for children who need them. A meeting with some senior local HSE managers ended with a commitment to further meetings.

However for Trina Murphy, who is from the northside of the city and who has direct experience of service shortcomings though her own young son, yesterday’s march in the rain may just be the start of the campaign.

A brainchild of the ‘Our Voice Their Future’ Facebook group, the nationwide campaign features many members of another online group, the DCA Warriors.

Trina Murphy, alongside Elaine Healy and Suzanne O’Flynn, led the demonstration in Cork and Trina said: “This is just the start.”

She said the situation in Cork/Kerry was particularly acute when it came to accessing services.

Many parents are waiting to see whether their child is on the autistic spectrum, but Trina said even when the initial diagnosis is made, those families can then face an agonising wait for other services, such as occupational therapy or speech and language assistance.

“We are just so sick of it,” she said.

Suzanne O’Flynn, (above right), from Togher in Cork, recalled how she began the process of assessment for her own son, Luke, who is now four, when he was just nine months old. It took a year-and-a-half.

Trina Murphy said: “All we want for our children is the best future they can have.”

A local HSE spokesperson said waiting times for assessment and treatment regarding speech and language therapy had been “significantly reduced”, but that there had been a significant increase in applications for assessment of needs in the Cork region, meaning timelines set down in the Disability Act are not being met.

“While we are making some progress, it must be noted that because of the high number of referrals, it will be a considerable amount of time before waiting times reduce to where they should be,” the spokesperson said.

Across Cork and Kerry there is now 1,595 assessment of need applications overdue, which the spokesperson said was “unacceptably high”, adding work was continuing to reduce it.

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