Charity cycle helps therapy for autism

By Mary Dennehy

LOCAL children on the autism spectrum will receive subsidised sessions of speech and language therapy thanks to the public’s support of The Echo’s annual Christmas fundraiser.

This year The Echo embarked on a ‘300km for €3k’ static cycle in The Square for Social Circle, with a total of €3,111 raised for the parent-led group which organises social and sporting activities for children with autism and their families.

Social Circle 02

The Echo organised a cycle challenge to raise funds for Social Circle in November

Speaking with The Echo, parent Mairead Mekki said that the money raised will for the first time be used to deliver subsidised speech and language therapy (six sessions) to 15 of its young members, who have been waiting to see the HSE School Age Team for between three and five years.

According to the HSE, there is a 42-month (three-and-a-half years) wait for the School Age Team in Dublin South West, which sees children over the age of six.

Mairead told The Echo: “Providing access to speech and language therapy was never really our aim.

“Our main aim is to let children experience fun things and sporting activities that a child with autism doesn’t always get to experience within their community.

“However, because there is such a lack of services, we decided we had to go down this road.

“There are so many parents coming to us, it’s soul-destroying for a parent to see a child left like this.”

She added: “These services should be provided by the HSE, and if delivered they can provide quicker, better outcomes for children and in the long term, is cheaper for the State.

“Intervention helps children to learn skills that will support them as adults.”

Thanking the community for its support through The Echo’s GoFundMe page and at the static cycle in The Square on Thursday, November 29, Mairead stressed that every penny raised will make a difference.

“We are absolutely delighted with the donation,” Mairead said.

“This money will make such a difference and we are so excited to be able to do this.

“It is not manageable for families to pay for private therapy, so being able to provide subsidised therapy is phenomenal.”

When contacted by The Echo, the HSE said that there are 2.5 SLT (Speech Language Therapists) in the Dublin South West School Age Team, with one post currently vacant due to leave.

A spokesperson for the HSE said: “The implementation of reconfiguration of services under “Progressing Disabilities” is well advanced and hoped to be implemented fully across Dublin South West in 2019. 

“Recruitment for the Network Team Managers for this reconfiguration is also underway, with interviews planned for the end of January 2019. 

“This will assist with the operational effectiveness of the teams.”

Anybody interested in contacting Social Circle and learning about the varied schedule of events and activities they provide, visit the Social Circle Facebook page.

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