By Áilín Quinlan
KELLY Newman can’t wait to ‘get cookin’ in the spanking new kitchen, while Melissa Collins is thrilled about having more space in the all-new €2.1 million CoAction building in Clonakilty.
Kelly and Melissa are among some 21 adult service users who will be moving into Co Action’s newly-completed centre near the town’s Convent Avenue, shortly after Easter.
The Ardú complex, which will house both CoAction’s Adult Service in Clonakilty and the West Cork Child Development Services, will provide purpose-built accommodation and a range of facilities for therapy, training and administration.
While the child services are already operating from the centre, the adult programmes, which facilitate men and women with intellectual disability, ranging from 18-year-olds to people in their 50s, will be based there after Easter.
The biggest single advantage the Ardú complex offers to the adult services, says Helen Sheehan, coordinator of adult services in Clonakilty, is the vastly increased space: ‘Our current premises is very cramped, as we’re working out of two rooms, but in the new building we’ll have a relaxation room, a training room, a drop-in centre and a life skills area.’
As Melissa Collins succinctly puts it: ‘We were all clung into one room and now we’ll have a lot more space!’
The adult service provides a three-year Training For Life programme which runs five days a week and incorporates living skills such as personal awareness, health, exercise, diet, cookery, personal finance and learning to navigate local facilities such as the post office, the bank, the library and the shops.
‘This helps people live more independently in their own community,’ explains Helen, who adds that CoAction also provides job coaching services such as interview skills and tips on appropriate dress and workplace behaviour.
Housewife Mary Barrett’s 23-year-old daughter Maggie, who has Cerebral Palsy and uses a wheelchair, attends the CoAction Adult Services, where she is a participant on the life skills programme.
‘It’s a very good idea to have a local service for local people,’ says Mary.
‘The life skills programme is great for Maggie – she’s involved in the local community. Everyone knows her and she knows lots of people, it’s good for her confidence. The life skills programme gets her out and about,’ says Mary. ‘Generally it has been very good for her in terms of self-confidence.’
The new complex also provides crucial state-of-the-art facilities for the West Cork Child Development Services, according to Hazel Trudgill, service manager for the West Cork Child Development Services and director of the children’s service for Coaction.
Hazel manages all of the West Cork Child Development Services throughout the region – Clonakilty is one of four teams which are also in Bantry, Skibbereen and Dunmanway.
The Clonakilty service caters for some 160 children – aged up to 18 and over for anyone above that age who is still attending school – out of a total of 550 children across the region’s four centres.
Children attending the service present with complex needs, such as developmental delay, and receive the services of a multi-disciplinary team offering speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, clinical nurse specialist services, psychology and access to a social worker.
They’re already in the new facility and enjoying the advantages of a modern building, which boasts a fully equipped occupational therapy and physiotherapy gym – previously children had to travel to Dunmanway to access the gym there.
The other major new facility is an observation room with two-way mirror, which enables staff to carry out a team assessment on the children – this is of huge benefit, says Trudgill, as it means one therapist can be in the room working with a child while the rest of the team observe.
It’s all a very welcome change from their former HQ, which was a bungalow with a portacabin in the back.
‘For families the move means state-of-the-art facilities for all therapies are being provided locally. We’re very pleased with the new centre – it’s gorgeous!’
Sarah O’Donovan’s children are among those already enjoying life at the new centre. The 26-year-old from Rossmore has two boys – Ryan aged three, who has been attending the service since the age of 18 months, and Jack who is nearly 12 months.
Ryan began to speak normally at the age of nine months, but stopped talking three months later. He was diagnosed as on the autism spectrum last February, and has recently started to talk again, says his mum.
The West Cork Child Development Service has been a huge support to the family, particularly through its speech and language and occupational therapy services, she emphasises.
‘Ryan’s very energetic and the occupational therapy has shown us just how much energy he needs to burn off – the staff have also shown us techniques for soothing him and getting him to sleep. The service has helped us understand his needs and be better able to meet those needs.’
Baby Jack is nearly one and is globally developmentally delayed, which means his development in everything from his physical growth to his speech is delayed. He receives speech and language therapy and physiotherapy, and with Ryan, regularly attends the clinical nurse specialist.
‘It’s a great support,’ says Sarah. ‘If I’m worried about anything I can ring, which is fabulous. Everyone there is just marvellous.’