Crystal Swing’s Dervla O’Connor is crying out for more autism services across Cork, as she struggles to find a school to suit her little boy’s needs.
Dervla and her husband Tim O’Connor are parents to their five-year-old son Paul, who is severely autistic. Speaking to RedFM’s Neil Prendeville, Dervla said, “'There really are no services as [there's] such a lack of school spaces [ in Cork].”
“There are special schools, called units, which are attached to mainstream schools that cater for children with autism, but unfortunately Paul has gone past that now,” Dervla noted, adding, “What he will need going forward is a special school.”
Understanding that autism is measured on a broad spectrum, Dervla said that Paul is “very, very severe”.
“He is the light of our lives and we absolutely adore him, but life with Paul is very, very difficult,” she admitted while speaking on the Cork-based radio show.
“I'm finding it increasingly difficult to look after him because he is non-verbal and cannot communicate his needs to us. He has a lot of frustration inside his body, so he lashes out a lot and he hits out a lot.”
“It's through no fault of his own,” the mum-of-two said, adding, “but everything in our home has been damaged. He’s broken screens, many televisions, pulled down curtain rails, he’s constantly on kitchen tables, countertops, it’s a miracle he’s not caused damaged to his brain from falling.”
“All mirrors and glass have had to be taken down for his safety.”
Dervla goes on to explain her worries, saying that Paul “chews on things on a continuous basis… he’ll chew on things like electrical cables.”
Expressing how her family situation has effected her emotionally, Dervla admitted that she cries a lot, and now finds “no one is listening. I am on my knees begging every day for help, support, services…”
“The other day I was walking down the street in Midleton and was asked how I was getting on and just started bawling crying on the street.”
“My child deserves an education. All of these children do, they deserve dignity, respect, it is a constitutional right.”
Continuing, Dervla said, “Even though Paul has very complex needs, he has intelligence inside of him, and I know a special school would be the key to unlocking it.”