A CENTRE will open in Clonakilty this summer offering children with additional needs crucial early intervention services like occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, play therapy, and psychology.
Developed by Kildare-based charity Sensational Kids, the state-of-the-art facility will be particularly beneficial to children with autism, dyspraxia, dyslexia, Down syndrome and other developmental delays, as well as those without a diagnosed condition.
In the meantime, the charity is running speech therapy services with appointments available in as little as three weeks, for the subsidised rate of €75 compared to a more typical private cost of €120.
Clonakilty-based speech therapist Elaine Baldwin has been working full time from the GAA Complex in Ahamilla for the past month and is emphatic when she says: ‘The earlier a potential speech difficulty is picked up and a treatment strategy identified the better the outcome.
‘The difficulty is that you won’t know where that initial consultation will take you – and very often after that you’ll have to go on another list to see a different team.
Current waiting times for an assessment in the public service vary. According to the HSE, 67 children are waiting for initial assessment in West Cork (none longer than 16 weeks), 76 children are waiting for initial therapy (75% waiting under 16 weeks) and 158 for further therapy (54% waiting under 16 weeks).
‘What can happen,’ Elaine continued, ‘is that by the time a child is seen they’ll have moved past the age to qualify for the Early Intervention List which deals with children to the age of three.’
Elaine was quick to point out that the existing level of therapy available through the public and private system in West Cork was a quality service.
Rather than filling a gap, she sees them ‘bridging’ one.
‘The difficulty with public sessions is not the quality but that they are not as frequent as we’d like them to be,’ she said. ‘The other thing is that the child gets a block of sessions in the public system, but there’s no magic formula and that’s not always the most appropriate way of delivering treatment. A lot of the time children come to us before their HSE blocks,’ she added.
To kick start the initiative and raise awareness of what they are all about, a free drop-in-clinic runs in the Ahamilla complex in Clonakilty on Wednesdays from 10am to 12 noon, when any parent who has a question or a concern about their child’s speech and language development can call by and get free advice.
‘Parents often demonstrate concern regarding their child’s communication development, sometimes unnecessarily and other times with good reason. The general advice is that if a speech difficulty persists past the age of three and a half, then seek advice. It’s best to rule something out than rule it in,’ advised Elaine.
‘Our free drop-in-clinic on Wednesdays will hopefully offer much needed peace of mind and specialist advice to many parents.’
Her general advice to parents to promote a child’s speech is straightforward: talk to them as much as possible.
‘Talk your child through the day – it’s all about helping build understanding of the world around them and giving the language to talk about that world.’ She also advises limiting screen time.
‘We all understand its usefulness, but it’s all about the way it’s used. It must be backed up by conversation,’ she said.
• For further information about Sensational Kids, see www.sensationalkids.ie or call 045-520900.
About Sensational Kids
THE 10,000 sq ft centre, complete with sensory gym, will be set up by children’s charity, Sensational Kids, thanks to a donation of €45,000 from the Dormant Accounts Fund.
Sensational Kids was founded in 2008 in Kildare by Karen Leigh, who discovered first-hand, a lack of affordable support services for children with special educational needs. Over the past 10 years, the charity has worked with more than 4,700 children at its child development centre in Kildare.
The Clonakilty centre will be their second development with a third planned for the Connacht region.
Sensational Kids provides three offerings for children and their families: affordable services for children in need of additional support; a child development and learning store which sells a range of fun skill-building toys both in-store and online; professional development training workshops for those working with children with additional needs.
Collectively these services are ensuring that the children benefiting from them can improve their skills and maximise their potential, says Karen Leigh.
It’s important to note that services are open to children of all ages, and of all abilities, including those with additional needs and include occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, educational psychological assessments, specialist reading tuition, and more.
Sensational Kids stress they are happy to provide their services to any child, regardless of whether they have a diagnosed condition or not.
As they don’t receive state funding, all proceeds from the shop and training workshops are invested back into the charity to help subsidise the cost of its child development services. In addition, Sensational Kids also fundraises each year to ensure its clients pay a minimum for its services