Down Syndrome Ireland members have joined in a celebration taking place today in cities and towns across Europe to mark World Down Syndrome Day (March 21st) this year.
Some 15 adults with Down syndrome who are also members of the Barndoor Creative Studios will join their peers across Europe by taking part in a flashmob dancing to the tune of “Back on my Feet” by Kimberose. They will do this on the grounds of the awe-inspiring Trim Castle in Co. Meath at 1pm today (March 21st). There are flashmobs taking place today in 26 towns and cities across Europe, including Paris, Madrid, Budapest, Warsaw, Vienna and Berlin to celebrate the day.
Dancing with the Stars pro-dancer Pasquale La Rocca has alongside dance teacher Nessa Lynch been working with the adults on perfecting their dance moves during lockdown to help curb isolation.
Nicola Jones (19) from Ballivor in Meath, who is one of the dance troupe said: “It has been a tough time for us all and we thought what could make us feel better? Dancing and being with our friends again! I’m so happy to take part in a celebration that people with Down syndrome across the world are involved in – it’s very exciting!”
The group are also wearing brightly coloured socks while doing their flashmob, which is also a way for people to help raise awareness about Down syndrome and join in the celebrations on the day.
CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland Barry Sheridan said: “We’re asking people to ‘wear, share and show they care’ by wearing odd socks and posting them to social media using the #LotsofSocks4DSI.
“As a charity we need to fundraise 80% of our income to help support children and adults with Down syndrome and we’re asking people to support us if they can.”
Crisis in children’s disability services
Down Syndrome Ireland is the national charity for people with Down syndrome and their families with a membership of 3,500 across the country in 25 branches.
Mr. Sheridan continued: “While we strive to celebrate WDSD by raising awareness about the abilities of people with Down syndrome, it would be remiss of us not to highlight the current crisis in children’s disability services that is affecting thousands of children with Down syndrome and other disabilities in Ireland.”
The charity has published a report which shows that
- Almost half of children aged 0 – 18 have had no vital early intervention services in the past year.
- Some 40% have had no communication from the HSE in the last 12 months.
- 65% of respondents received zero Speech and Language therapy sessions last year. Speech and language therapy is vital for young children with Down syndrome.
The evidence presented in the report highlights that while this is a longstanding issue, the situation has been worsened by the pandemic.
Mr. Sheridan continued: “Parents and children are being left behind by the HSE and the Government – this is a crisis and one that is getting worse all the time. We’re aware of children up to four years of age who have not had any access to vital early intervention services.
“For children with Down syndrome, missing out on the early and consistent benefits of vital therapies has lifelong negative consequences but it also has consequences for our health service in terms of increased need for health and social care services across the lifespan.”
Disability organisations the Disability Federation of Ireland and Inclusion Ireland have welcomed the report and echoed calls for immediate action to be taken for children with disabilities.
Disability Federation of Ireland CEO John Dolan said: “We know that early and continued therapeutic intervention is of critical importance to children with disabilities. The Down Syndrome Ireland report highlights a grave risk to those children who have lost out on years of support. Losing out on this support is adding to their lifetime loss of capacity.
“On this, World Down Syndrome Day, DFI would emphasise the rights of children with disabilities as enshrined under Article 7 of the UN CRPD as well as Article 25 which calls on state parties to provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities.”
Inclusion Ireland CEO Derval McDonagh said: “It is imperative that children receive the support they require, early and often, in the years when it makes the biggest difference”, she goes on to say “ this year the EPSEN act will be reviewed, the disability act should also be reviewed in parallel so that the rights of the child are fully enshrined in legislation. We need action now so that more children are not waiting years for the support that they need and should have a right to. Early Intervention can be instrumental in supporting a child to access their right to education, to flourish and to thrive.”