As we reported in last week’s edition, the FFA wishes to raise €8 million to see the service, which currently includes 49 children with special needs along with 12 staff, re-locate to a new, purpose-built facility.
And while a long road lies ahead on the fundraising front, the ambition to meet this fundraising target cannot be underestimated on behalf of the FFA, who welcomed the Centre’s inclusion among the Mayor’s Ball 2016 recipients last week.
According to its funding proposal document, the Centre’s Early Intervention Services “empower children with a broad range of intellectual and/or physical challenges (many profound) and their families to develop their full potential in a safe and nurturing environment. This is achieved through the provision of an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) for children attending the Main Early Intervention Service.”
This service currently runs for five days a week for a total of 15 hours (9am to 12pm or 12.30pm to 3.30pm). “Referral to this specialist service may be made following agreement of the relevant network when the child is nearing two years of age or earlier if deemed necessary. The child will have significant delay in a number of areas, will require a significant amount of individual attention and will only participate in small group situations for short periods of time.”
Children attending Sacred Heart have access to a range of personal, social, cognitive, communicative along with fine and gross motor programmes. “The IFSP documents and guides the early intervention process for the children who attend the Main Early Intervention Service and their families. Through this process, family members and staff work as a team to plan, implement and evaluate services tailored to the families’ unique concerns, priorities and resilience.”
The significance of the Early Intervention (EI) Group was outlined by parents Siobhan and Michael Hassett, when detailing the experience of their son Mick, who first attended the Centre in September 2013, “barely two years old” at the time.
“The Early Intervention team is completely ability-focused,” according to Siobhan. “Nothing is impossible – there is always a way. The approach is always consistent and the environment is friendly and encouraging.”
She continued: “Mick’s ability to communicate has improved dramatically. All his therapies have been interwoven into his weekly schedule. Mick has mastered toilet training, feeding himself and he is demonstrating a much stronger desire to walk. There were times when perhaps I wasn’t sure that he could manage certain tasks, but the EI team has always believed in my child.
“The journey that Mick has been on during the last two years has been amazing, sometimes challenging but always rewarding. He leaves the Sacred Heart Centre well prepared for the next chapter in the story of his wonderful life. His wellbeing has always been the staff’s priority and the EI team has done everything possible to ensure that Mick reaches his potential.”
Siobhan concluded: “Somebody once said ‘don’t cry because it’s over – smile because it happened’. That’s our plan and the Sacred Heart Centre and everyone in it that dedicated their time and energy to Mick will always be remembered fondly and with gratitude in our family.”
Added to this, the Sacred Heart Centre provides a specialist toddler service for two mornings a week, running from 9am to 12pm, with referrals to this group made following agreement of the relevant network when the child approaches 18 months of age.
The FFA funding proposal adds: “The child must be able to participate in a small group situation, have established joint attention and is compliant for most activities. During this placement, the child will have the opportunity to further develop important social, cognitive, language, motor and adaptive skills.”
Parents of such toddlers are expected to attend guidance/coaching sessions “as necessary”. “Eight children access our Toddler Service on Wednesday and Friday mornings, i.e. six hours per week. On discharge from the programme the Networks will continue to lead out the necessary interventions in consultation with family and the other personnel, e.g. Special Educational Needs Organiser (SENO), Community Play Group, Montessori, etc.”
As part of its ambition to “enhance services provided by the HSE to children with disabilities in Waterford and its environs”, the FFA believes that the best way of delivering on that ambition is through its funding for the provision of a brand new building. And theirs is a campaign which The Munster Express will proudly report upon.