World Down Syndrome Day was celebrated in West Cork a little bit early this year to coincide with the launch of a comprehensive speech and language service for people of all ages, writes Jackie Keogh
FAMILIES and members of Down Syndrome Cork gathered at the Eldon Hotel in Skibbereen, in advance of World Down Syndrome Day this week, to raise awareness of the availability of speech and language therapy, which is based at the Skibbereen Family Resource Centre.
Barry O’Donovan, the father of Jack, who has Down Syndrome, described the service as excellent.
‘Speech and language is so important for Jack going forward to be able to be a part of the community in West Cork,’ he said.
‘It means a lot to me too as a parent,’ he added, ‘it is a big win for us down here. We are delighted to have speech and language back in West Cork because we didn’t have the service for a number of years.’
Ray O’Callaghan, general manager of Down Syndrome Cork, explained that March 21st was selected as World Down Syndrome Day to signify the uniqueness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome which causes Down syndrome.
‘Our ability to offer speech and language therapy is,’ he added, one of the most important ways we can enrich the lives of our members.’
He explained that the service is available on a weekly basis.
‘So far,’ he said, ‘our speech and language therapists (SLT) see about 12 children from West Cork but there is potential to assist many more.’
Through Down Syndrome Cork – which has over 400 members in Cork city and county and is governed by a parent-led committee – members can avail of speech therapy on a regular basis.
Support for Down Syndrome Cork was evident in the number of family members, local businesses, and charitable organisations that attended the recent launch.
Mark Salter Townshend, secretary of Skibbereen Lions Club, said they are delighted to have been able to support West Cork Down Syndrome over the last few years.
‘Whether it is through members taking part in the annual Tour de Munster, or proceeds from our adventure race Scar, we know that all monies donated are going to a very worthy cause,’ he said.
‘In return, the West Cork Down Syndrome committee are first in to take a table at our annual dinner and always volunteer to marshal our adventure race.’
In addition to speech and language, Cork Down Syndrome offers occupational therapy, educational services, family support groups, social activities and outings.
The organisation also has a Field of Dreams project. This is a three-acre facility at Curraheen in Cork where they offer employment supports, training and work experience building.
‘For some members,’ Ray said, ‘this means a life of greater independence and self-reliance, while for others it means progress towards the pleasure and satisfaction of paid employment.’