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Mary Lou hopes song will prompt autism housing

May 29th, 2024 9:00 AM

By Jackie Keogh

Mary Lou hopes song will prompt autism housing Image
Mary Lou's song was inspired by her son, Jack.

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WITH just three weeks to go before the counting of votes in the local election, a candidate in the Bantry area has released a song that marks the start of a major project that could provide independent living for adults with autism.

Mary Lou Maguire Leahy, who is seeking election for Fine Gael for the first time, will officially launch her song, Autism, at 8pm at a musical event at The Traveller’s Rest in Caheragh on Friday, May 24th.

Coinciding with the launch, Mary Lou has also established a GoFundMe called Independent Living Accommodation for Adults Living with Autism.

Mary Lou and her husband Brendan Leahy are hoping to source a site and provide small independent units, after having faced their own concerns about what would happen to their 15-year-old son Jack, who is autistic, if they were both to pass away.

The song was originally written as part of Mary Lou’s final exams when she was studying mental health in the community.

‘We were asked to submit something very personal to ourselves and because we struggled so much to get services for Jack as a two-year-old, the song was created,’ she said.

‘We couldn’t get anyone to listen to us. We were isolated. We couldn’t go to restaurants, cafés, even something as basic as the playground, because Jack struggled with his anxiety,’ she said.

‘We didn’t even know what we, as a family, should be doing to support Jack. He would scream with his anxiety at night so it was easier for us to stay at home.

‘I look around now and I see the same struggle is there with younger families and I can empathise because I have lived it,’ she added.

‘Now that Jack is heading into adulthood – age 18 – our worry is if something happens to myself or Brendan, where will Jack go?’ she asked.

‘I decided to use my song to raise money to acquire a site to be able to build tiny units for adults with autism to be allowed the opportunity to live independently.’

For the past 23 years, Mary Lou has been singing and playing music at Lisheen Church in Aughadown. In addition to these masses, she is also called upon to sing at funerals throughout West Cork.

The song is highly personal but it may resonate with many parents, and it may be the start of a unique housing project.

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