A CLARE mother whose son was diagnosed with Autism has spoken about the “life-changing” effect of access to respite and residential services.
Mary Nolan whose son Liam has availed of RehabCare respite services for more than 20 years, was speaking as a new regional service offering up to 1,200 respite bed night opportunities for children and adults with severe and profound disabilities in the Mid-West region opened in the county.
The new regional respite and residential service, which will support more than 100 adults and children, was opened on Friday in Clarecastle by the Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Anne Rabbitte.
Carrowgar is operated by RehabCare, the Care division of the Rehab Group. This service will support children and individuals with severe/profound learning difficulties, accompanying physical disabilities, complex medical and healthcare needs, and those who may have additional sensory impairments.
The HSE Mid-West funds this new service to provide much-needed respite breaks for children and families responding to need across the catchment area from Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary.
Minister Rabbitte was joined at the opening on Friday by the CEO of Rehab Group, Barry McGinn, Director of Care at Rehab Group, Gráinne Fogarty, Maurice Hoare, Head of Service, HSE Midwest and parent, Mary Nolan.
Mary said, “Liam was diagnosed with Autism at three-years-old. He is on the severe end of the spectrum. He is non-verbal with challenging behavioural issues. He is very clever in his own way, but his view of the world is different. Imagine if you couldn’t speak or had no means of communicating, how frustrated and mad you would get.
“The reality was Liam needed one-to-one attention, routine, and predictability and in an ordinary family setting that was impossible. RehabCare is a place that understands Autism and the people working in it have experience of people like Liam. It was a safe place for Liam and a place where he was understood.
“RehabCare set up an Autism Specific Children’s Residential Service in Clare in 2007. Liam was the first child in that service at the time. Everything was carefully considered and planned.
“RehabCare took great care of Liam; he presented many challenges for which they had always had fresh ideas. They succeeded in training Liam in areas where we had failed.
“Liam had two homes. When Liam would go back after a weekend at home, we felt like we like he was going to a family member. It was life-enriching for Liam. It was also life-changing for us.
“We are very grateful for everything that RehabCare have done and continue to do for Liam and our family, thanks to the funding provided by the HSE and the Government Department. Respite and Residential Services like Carrowgar are absolutely essential for children and their families.”
Director of Care at the Rehab Group, Gráinne Fogarty, said, “Planning for the development of this service commenced in 2018 with Rehab Group in conjunction with the HSE committing to develop a respite service to respond to the extensive waiting lists to access our existing children’s respite services.
“It became clear that in addition to the requirement to address the waiting lists to access children’s respite there was also a significant gap in the provision of high-support services to those exiting the respite service when they turned 18.
“It was then decided to utilise Carrowgar to address both by providing respite to individuals over 18 and children on alternate weeks. When fully operational this facility will provide support to 100 families in the Mid-West region.
“Delivery of this project would not have been possible without the support of our colleagues in the HSE and staff across the Rehab Group and RehabCare regional team. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all of those involved.”
Deputy Rabbitte said at the official opening, “I am keenly aware of the critical importance of respite for loved ones and families of those with a disability.
“During the Covid crisis, many services were forced to close or reduce capacity, which was devastating for many people. It identified the importance and value of services like a respite for people with disabilities and their families.
“Respite is such a valuable resource for children with disabilities and families. This is a positive and very welcome provision and I am sure that it will be greatly appreciated by families in the community.”
Mr McGinn, CEO of Rehab Group, said, “We are genuinely delighted to have this service up and running. Carrowgar is the 12th respite service we have developed nationally and our fifth in the Mid-West area.
“The provision of respite services makes an invaluable contribution to the well-being of families and those who use our services. We see and hear every day in our facilities throughout the country.
“As a result, we have committed to developing additional residential and alternative models of respite as part of our five-year Strategy. I have no doubt that Carrowgar will have a positive impact on hundreds of families who require their services.”