Mother of special needs boy makes appeal for assistance

Sat, Jun 9, 2012, 01:00

THE MOTHER of a boy with special needs has pleaded with her local authority to help modify her home to prevent her son from injuring himself.

Frances Healy (55), a single mother from Garryowen, Co Limerick, says she has been forced to cover many of the walls of her home in soft padding because her son, Luke (14), keeps hitting his head off them.

Luke has Down syndrome and requires 24-hour supervision. Ms Healy says he has also has been diagnosed with epilepsy, attention-deficit disorder and asthma.

He has developed behaviour problems which include forcing his hands down his throat to make himself vomit.

Ms Healy said the local authority had helped in the past by placing padding in the back yard and providing a modified shower.

She said she had used about €1,000 of her own funds to create a padded bedroom, as well as putting padding on doors inside the house. But she said the local authority had recently rejected her application for a disabled grant allowance.

“I just want to show what carers are going through,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking. All I want is a place where he can be safe and to be happy. But it feels like you have to fight for everything . . . There are loads of people in my situation and worse off.”

Ms Healy lives in a local authority home.

She is a full-time carer for her son and receives a weekly welfare payment of €375.

Her son attends St Vincent’s school, run by the Daughters of Charity, during the week. He also attends a respite service between six and seven nights a month, for which she pays a nominal fee.

She said she was worried at suggestions that respite services could be cut by the Government or that additional services for children with disabilities could be curtailed.

There have been suggestions from Government sources that families may have to pay for respite care out of the annual €1,700 respite care allowance each year.

However, Ms Healy said all this money went on providing basics for her son. “Almost everything goes on Luke. There’s a lot of work in him but the most important thing is that he is my baby and he’s worth every bit of it. He’s my little son and will always be until the day I die. I brought him into this world and I’m there to help him.

Ms Healy praised her friends and neighbours in Fairview Crescent, Garryowen, who she said were of huge assistance to her every day. As he grows older Luke can be harder to handle, she said, but some of her neighbours help lift him into the shower because she cannot lift him any more.

While she said she has been turned down for an allowance from her local authority, officials have indicated that that could be reviewed. In addition, a group of professionals is due to meet at her home to assess the home environment.