Story 1 - The Quad Squad
Gaelic Warriors - Irish Wheelchair Rugby Team
Wheelchair Rugby originated in the North America in the early 1980's but it wasn't until 1997 that Ireland became involved in the game. The game is played on an indoor court, with 4 players on each side, all of whom are, quadriplegics. The main instigator in the development of the game was Garrett Culliton. Garrett comes from a strong rugby background and after seeing the game being played while he was in the United States, was adamant that Ireland would have their own Wheelchair Rugby team.
This story follows Craig McMillan as he trains in preparation for the then upcoming European Championships in Finland which took place in the first week of June. Craig was injured playing rugby several years ago and as a result is a wheelchair user .This hasn't stopped his love of the sport and instead encouraged him to join The Gaelic Warriors - even if it means him traveling from Belfast where he lives and works every week for training and matches. We also meet his family and his Dad, John , who is extremely involved with The Gaelic Warriors also.
The team are now working on these in preparation for an Invitational Demonstration match against the French in Paris at the IRB Rugby World Cup, this September.
Story 2 - Autism
The O'Dwyer family
Shannon and Paul O'Dwyer are aged 9 and 7 respectively and have not attended school since May 2005 as a result of a longstanding battle by their parents to have them properly diagnosed. Prior to this both children were pupils at Scoile Mhuire in Kilkenny in a class catering for children with Specific Speech and Language disorder. In May 2005 the school informed the parents that a place would no longer be available for their children as it was felt they had an intellectual disability and this class does not cater for children with intellectual disabilities. Caroline and Paul were adamant that the tests used to diagnose their children were inappropriate for testing children with a speech and language disorder and took up the fight to have their children reassessed with the aid of the National Parents and Sibling Alliance.
Finally in September 2006 neither child was found to have an intellectual disability.
Since September negotiations have been ongoing with schools in Kilkenny to find one willing to form a special class for autism. Saint Cannices have agreed and have employed a teacher and have now been in school for a month. Progress is slow but so far encouraging. Caroline's concern is that they have already missed the "window of opportunity" during which vital work could have been done with her children.
Day to day life for the O'Dwyers is difficult and revolves around specialized programmes such as socialization and ABA in order to prevent the regression which is a typical pattern for children within the Autism Spectrum. Caroline looks after the children full time and Paul works nights. Both devote tremendous energy to working with their children to enable them to have as normal a life as possible. Activities such as shopping have to be planned for with the family familiarizing the children with shopping baskets and a cash register in their own home beforehand.
A consequence of neither child being diagnosed properly is that they have missed out on vital services and are now too old to be considered a priority. Caroline has recently been told that both children will be placed on a waiting list for services as priority is given to children under the age of six. (Early intervention is paramount in cases of Autism to prevent regression)
Caroline is frustrated with the lack of support and information available to parents and does all she can to advise and support parents in similar situations. She feels that the present policies will result in children becoming institutionalized in "Special Schools" who with right early intervention may have had a chance at leading semi independent lives at some stage.
The Power family
Both boys developed normally until around 18 months when they became very clumsy and seemed to stop developing and began regressing. Margaret had them assessed by a pediatrician who suspected autism. This had to be officially diagnosed by an educational psychologist. Due to the long waiting list Margaret took her children to London for assessment where they were officially diagnosed.
Margaret knew nothing about Autism when her children were diagnosed but after researching the condition found out about Saplings school in North Dublin which caters specifically for children with Autism. By Jan 2003 both children had been enrolled in the school which specializes in ABA. With the support of Saplings Margaret was able to access all the appropriate services for her children.
Since March last year Saplings have assisted the children in their gradual integration into mainstream school. (Killashae Multi-denominational school. Naas) Prior to their being enrolled in Mainstream school Margaret was very much involved in the educational process. She now feels she is able to step back from this process and take on a more traditional mothering role. Margaret describes the past few years as being very challenging and at times frightening as she came to terms with her childrens problems. Nowadays she is delighted with their progress and see's hope for their future. She feels that they have received appropriate education in time for it to have a real affect on their development and future prospects.
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