Today, one in four children in Ireland has an additional need. To put that in context, for every 20 children in an average national school class, five require extra support and services. Beth O’ Regan explains why an organisation like Sensational Kids, which provides subsidised therapy accessible and affordable to all children of all means and all abilities, is so important.
Last year, Barnardos released a report on Speech and Language waiting lists in Ireland and the statistics were quite alarming. In March 2018, there were 10,966 children awaiting their initial assessment with 355 children waiting longer than a year. An astonishing 14 per cent of these children were from the Cork region, which – according to the report – is a “particular blackspot” in terms of waiting to be called for an appointment. With almost 30,000 children waiting nationally to be seen by the HSE, it is unrealistic to believe that each child will get the necessary intervention when they need it. It is more likely that they will remain on the public waiting list until an appointment becomes available, by which stage their initial need may no longer be the only issue. If a child requires therapy, we believe they should receive it as soon as possible, consequently, the outcomes are often much more positive.
Sensational Kids, a child development centre based in Clonakilty, opened last year. So far they have helped over 100 children and have provided over 150 therapy appointments. They specialise in Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy and, from March 2019, Play Therapy. First established in Kildare Town in 2008, CEO Karen Leigh saw that there were no supports in place for people who could not afford the cost of private therapy or for those who could not wait on the long public waiting lists. The great thing about this place is that it is a social enterprise, which means that any money made (through the traded income in the child development store or workshops) is ploughed back in to the business to allow therapy to be subsidised, where necessary and in order to deliver the premium level service, which is accessible and affordable to all children of all means and all abilities.
Speech and language therapy in Sensational Kids Clonakilty is run by highly experienced SLT, Elaine Baldwin. She works on language stimulation (receptive language, expressive language) and the production of speech (speech sounds/articulation). Additionally, intervention can be provided for oral motor skills, fluency (stammering), voice disorders and social skills. Each child’s selected goals are achieved using evidence-based practice. Alternative and augmentative communication tools, such as computers, LAMH or the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) may be used to facilitate functional communication skills. Additionally, intervention can be provided for oral motor skills, fluency (stammering), voice disorders and social skills.
The proof is in the pudding of the reactions of children who come through their doors each day. The beaming smiles, the tremendous relationship the therapists nurture, not only with the children, but also the families and the sheer sense of fun makes it such an enjoyable place to visit. Everything from the colourful walls in the gym to the huge array of toys and resources in the fully equipped shop have been thought about and purposefully selected to make every visit an enjoyable experience. Traolach, a six-year-old who attended SLT with Elaine said “I like everything about going to Elaine. I love all the work we do because it is fun. I like playing with the barn and the eggs. She is very nice and funny. I love her”.
On February 20, Sensational Kids celebrated providing one year of speech and language therapy appointments in Clonakilty; We have grown, adapted and flourished since starting out in Ahamilla GAA Club. We are so thankful to the wonderful community of Clonakilty, and indeed West Cork, for welcoming us so warmly in to the community and indeed, for the incredible support we have received. We look forward to helping so many more children in the area and helping to close the gap on children on waiting lists. We strongly believe that early intervention is key and that together we can achieve anything we put our minds to.
For more information on the services and supports available, please visit www.sensationalkids.ie or call them on 023 8878208.