'We've been left to rot' says mother of Cork teen with complex needs

'We've been left to rot' says mother of Cork teen with complex needs

Fionn is 17 years old and has autism.

The mother of a Cork teenager who has complex needs said she feels like the family has been “left to rot” with no support over the summer.

Karen Crowley from Bandon has been unable to find a tutor during the summer holidays for her son Fionn, 17, who has autism, an intellectual disability and is non-verbal.

The primary support Fionn receives is from his special school, which makes the summer holidays hard for the family, particularly this year as they couldn’t find a home-based tutor. 

His special school did not run a summer programme this year as it was being renovated. “The summer is just a nightmare, it’s a living nightmare,” Ms Crowley said. The family gets three hours of home support a week. 

“It’s a drop in ocean. I do work, and I have help from family but it's hard on them too.”

During the school summer holidays, the Department of Education funds special schools to provide summer programmes for students with complex needs. 

The scheme is run on a voluntary basis, and funding is provided for home-based tutors for students whose schools are not operating programmes. 

Despite searching on social media, and putting a call out in local media, Ms Crowley was unable to find a tutor for Fionn. 

“We got nothing, it's a disgrace the way it's been implemented this year. 

It's just unbelievable that we've basically been left to rot over the summer with no support at all.

“I’ve been trying since May to get somebody. I tried everything and we got nowhere and I’m just so frustrated. I want to help Fionn and I just don’t know how I can do it.” 

Fionn turns 18 in November, and the process of transferring to adult services has begun. 

“If I don’t push for things now, things will never get done. He’s non-verbal, he’s 17 and we’ve had hardly any speech therapy over the last two years if any.

“We got maybe one session in the last couple of years and no other services. I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen any service.

“Fionn has a very low tone, so he needs to be seen by an occupational therapist. We haven’t been seen by an occupational therapist in years.

“It’s affecting him. There are other children ahead of him so what can you do? I am just dreading him going into adult services, we’ve started the ball rolling, but I’m obviously very worried for him.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it does not comment on individual cases. 

“While final figures are not yet available for 2022, more than 1,000 schools took part in summer programmes, an increase on the 945 that took part in 2021.”
The department wants to see this continue to grow, and will work with parents and schools, he added. 

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