'We don't know what we're going to do and that’s the scary part’

By Mary Dennehy

THIS is Lexi Ford, a young girl with autism who was given an appointment with the HSE’s School Age Team for late 2026 – five years away. 

Living in Kiltipper with mam Sorcha O’Connor and dad Stephen Ford, Lexi (7) attends St Dominic’s National School in Tallaght.

Lexi 22 1

Lexi with her mam Sorcha and dad Stephen

Lexi, who was diagnosed with autism when she was six, loves school and learning.

However, due to severe anxiety Lexi finds the school environment overwhelming, with the seven-year-old struggling to attend school due to a lack of special education resources.

Currently, due to limited supports in her school for children with additional needs, Lexi only attends St Dominic’s for two hours each day.  

“School is a huge anxiety for Lexi”, dad Stephen told The Echo.

“Lexi is highly intelligent and wants to go to school but she is so anxious, and needs supports to help her through.

“We don’t know what we’re going to do and that’s the scary part.

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Lexi Ford

“We just want Lexi to be able to go to school, she loves it.

“However, she can’t if there’s no support.”

Before lockdown, Lexi, who is in first class, found school challenging at times.

However, the lack of routine since the first lockdown and the many changes and new procedures introduced has placed additional stress on the young girl.

“I’m not saying things were easy for Lexi before but they have escalated for her since the first lockdown”, Stephen said.

“The ideal would be for Lexi to have her own SNA [Special Needs Assistant], and the supports she needs, but the school hasn’t got the resources.

“The school wants to help but it can’t.”

He added: “St Dominic’s is such a great school, and we don’t want to have to take her out.

“As parents, we feel terrible and we’ve cried over it, gotten angry.

“It’s just not right to have your child in a great school that she loves with all of her friends yet, we might have to take her out, have her homeschooled.

“We know Lexi is not the only child and we’re not the only parents in this situation… we have just been given this chance to be heard.”

Lexi has been waiting for an appointment with the HSE’s School Age Team, and last week a letter arrived for an appointment in November 2026.

The appointment is five years away, and at which point Lexi will be in sixth class.

According to the letter, sent by the HSE’s local community services team: “This service currently has lengthy waiting lists for services.

“It is expected that Lexi will be seen for her first appointment which will focus on the development of her Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) in November 2026.

“Please note that this date will also be subject to change due to the effects of the current Covid-19 pandemic.”

As reported on RTE News earlier this week, St Dominic’s has joined a number of school patronage bodies to call for an increase in the allocation of Special Education Teacher (SET) hours.

St Dominic’s is a growing school, with pupil numbers increasing year-on-year.

However, supports are not growing in tandem with pupil numbers, resulting in resources being stretched.

Speaking on RTE News, St Dominic’s principal Seamus Vaughan said: “We would like to see Lexi coming in for a full day.

“She's found the return to school after Covid very hard but we just do not have the supports to put in place for her to be able to do that.” 

The Echo contacted the HSE and the HSE Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow Community Healthcare. 

According to a spokesperson for the HSE's Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow Community Healthcare: “This letter should not have been issued by Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow Community Healthcare and the Community Healthcare Organisation will investigate why this communication was issued.

 “The HSE is currently rolling out the Progressing Disabilities Programme across the country including Dublin South, Kildare and West Wicklow Community Healthcare. 

“Progressing Disabilities Programme (PDS) is a national programme to reorganise children’s disability services. 

“PDS will change the way children aged 0-18 years and their families access and received clinical disability services and aims to provide a fairer pathway to clinical supports.”

No confirmation was provided on whether Lexi will receive an earlier appointment.

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