Waiting times for services are ‘disgraceful’ says mother

By Aideen O'Flaherty

A MOTHER has branded waiting lists for services in Chamber House in Tallaght as “disgraceful”, after her six-year-old daughter, who has Down Syndrome and is partially deaf, has spent nearly a year without supports to develop her speech or communication skills.

Sinead Sutcliffe, from Aylesbury in Tallaght, had received early intervention support from Cheeverstown House for her daughter Ava Lily Redmond, but once the young girl began attending primary school she was referred to the school age team in Chamber House and put on a waiting list.

Sinead and Ava 02

Sinead Sutcliffe with her daugher Ava Lily

When Ava Lily was added to the list last September her parents were informed that the typical waiting time for speech and language therapy was three years, and nearly a year after being added to the list the young girl is still waiting to get the necessary supports.

This has had a knock-on effect on Ava Lily’s ability to communicate with her classmates in Scoil Maelruain Junior School, and while Sinead has described the school as being an “excellent” help to her daughter, Ava Lily still struggles because she isn’t receiving speech and language therapy.

Sinead told The Echo: “Ava was born with a genetic intellectual disability, and it’s disgraceful that she will be nine before she gets speech and language therapy.

“She’s in a mainstream setting in school, but she has no way of communicating or forming relationships with the other children because she doesn’t have speech, all she has is broken speech.

Knocks her confidence

“When she speaks the children ask, ‘What did she say?’, and that really knocks her confidence.”

Ava Lily gets a “small amount” of one-to-one lessons with a special needs assistant in school, with Sinead adding that the school staff are doing their best to help her daughter, but since she was referred to Chamber House and added to their waiting list her speech has come to a standstill.

This has been compounded by Ava Lily’s need for grommets, which are small tubes that keep the middle ear aerated and that could help with her deafness, with her parents being told that the waiting time for grommets is also around the three-year mark.

Sinead said: “The whole system is so wrong. Ava has started life at a disadvantage because she has Down Syndrome, she needs the support.

“I’m fearful for her future – the more she’s left on waiting lists the further she’ll be set back.

“How can these children progress into adulthood properly?

“The HSE set up early intervention in order for children to get help, but all they’ve done is put them on waiting lists.”

Ava Lily’s parents can’t afford to get private care for their young daughter, as they already paid for private treatment when she underwent open heart surgery as a baby, and in 2016 when she got her tonsils removed to resolve issues with sleep apnoea.

“As a family we’ve already dug into our own pockets, we can’t afford to do it again – it’s too expensive for us,” Sinead added.

Sinn Fein TD for Dublin South West, Sean Crowe, said: “Speech and language therapy service is vital for children and adolescents who are having difficulties with communication.

“It encompasses the assessment, diagnosis, management and prevention of speech disorders.

“The current system is clearly broken and not delivering at the pace that vulnerable children and their families need.

“Surely no child who desperately needs speech and language supports to communicate should have to wait three long years for supports.

Totally unacceptable

“The fact that a child is doubly impaired with a hearing defect and has to also wait three years for a simple procedure of putting a grommet in her ear is cruel and totally unacceptable.”

The HSE were contacted for comment but they did not respond in time for print.

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