THREE West Cork mums who are campaigning for the area’s first special school to be established have identified 60 children from the region who would benefit from the
Laura O’Mahony, Emily O’Driscoll and Emma Howlin, who all live in the greater Clonakilty area and are parents of children with autism, launched their campaign for a school last May.
Their kids, all with different needs, currently attend either an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) unit, or a special school in Cork city.
But they’re aware that once they finish at primary level, there’s no clear pathway of education for them – anywhere.
Laura travelled to Leinster House recently to speak at a joint committee on autism.
She said the visit was ‘emotional, but it was great to be able to get our message out there.’
The key point they wanted to get across was that 15 children they know of currently travel to the city for school from west of Bandon, with some of them spending as little as an hour a day at school, while travelling one-and-a-half hours each way.
‘Leaving your local area for school means no after-school activities, no birthday invites or weekend friendships, as well as less time with siblings. Children are tired when they get home and family relationships are impacted,’ said Laura.
Her six-year-old son Max, who is non-verbal, attends St Killian’s School in Mayfield which means a daily two-and-a-half-hour journey. Until recently she’s had to drive him herself, and for the past fewweeks he’s travelled by taxi with an escort.
Assisted by FG senator Tim Lombard, Laura said they felt they have made good contacts, to push on with their campaign.
‘We think we have between 60 and 70 children and teens who need this. It’s an endless battle,’ said Laura.