Senator John Dolan and several politicians were joined by children from Down Syndrome Ireland and their parents at Leinster House to enjoy some ice cream and raise much-needed funds in the process.
Down Syndrome Ireland and HB Hazelbrook Farm hope to raise in excess of €300,000 through this year’s HB Fundays campaign, with funds raised this year going towards increased support for families of children with Down syndrome. Money raised help to accelerate funding for a programme which promotes speech and language development in children called See and Learn and Parent-Link, a local support service for new parents of babies with Down syndrome.
Learning to talk is a particular challenge for most children with Down syndrome. Difficulties with understanding and using language present obstacles in daily life and can be a major source of frustration. Delayed language impacts on learning, and the effects are lifelong.
See and Learn is an evidence based, structured teaching programme which teaches speech, language and reading skills in small steps, for children with Down syndrome up to 6 years of age. The programme is designed to help educators and parents provide young children with the additional support and practice they need to learn language and aid communication.
At our HB Funday party in Leinster House, we also called on the Department of Children and Youth Affairs to fund the future roll out of See and Learn so that it is fully sustainable in the long term. We are also calling for increased State investment to improve access to early intervention and therapy, particularly Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy.
Calling on the Government, Gary Owens, CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland said:
“Learning to talk is a particular challenge for most children with Down syndrome. Difficulties with understanding and using language present obstacles in daily life and can be a major source of frustration. Delayed language impacts on learning, and the effects are lifelong. As such, children with Down syndrome require frequent and regular Speech and Language Therapy in their early years.
“Unfortunately, the present situation with the HSE involves long waiting lists followed by short programmes of treatment. A recent survey showed that 50% of Down Syndrome Ireland members are waiting longer than 6 months to see a therapist, with some waiting for two to three years. This is a system which is not working for children, families or therapists. As a result, we are calling on the Government to intervene and improve the situation.”
Speaking on the value of See and Learn, Deirdre Howard from Kildare, whose son Ronan is 4, said:
“In the early days, our children’s comprehension is rarely reflected in their spoken communication; which leads to them being underestimated in terms of learning and potential, which unfortunately as we’ve seen in the past, impacts on their entire life. Most times, children with Down syndrome know the words and are trying to say them clearly, but it takes quite some time to perfect the pronunciation – so whilst Mums and Dads know the difference between ‘juice’ and ‘shoes’; others communicating with our kids might struggle.”
“But thankfully, so much is changing. Early intervention works. See and Learn works – we’ve been using it at home for two years and see the results. It’s been life-changing and we really want our Government to see our children’s potential and give them the best start in life.”
Commenting on the need for the vital programme, Nicola Hart, Speech and Language Therapist with Down Syndrome Ireland said:
“In the absence of frequent and timely speech and language therapy from the HSE, Down Syndrome Ireland provides specialist therapy in some branches, and subsidises parents to access private therapy in others. While the See and Learn programme is not a replacement for this, it is an educational programme which supports language development and could be rolled out universally by the Government to children with Down syndrome in their free preschool years.”
Elaine Prendergast, Brand Manager, Unilever Ireland added;
‘’It is wonderful that an ice-cream party is being hosted in Leinster House today for this great cause. We are proud to be partnering with Down Syndrome Ireland on HB Fundays for the 18th year running. The campaign has helped to raise over €3.5 million for the charity to date. It is so simple to get involved, last year more than 692 parties took place across the country with thousands of people fundraising and enjoying delicious HB Hazelbrook farm ice cream.”
At the event, Down Syndrome Ireland presented attendees with flyers outlining the need for support of the Fundays campaign – Download a copy of the flyer.
Our thanks to Senator John Dolan for hosting the HB Fundays party at Leinster Hosue this year and to all of the members that helped make the day extra fun, Sandra Poyzer and her daughter Aoife Poyzer (12) from our Tipperary Branch, Cora Horgan Farrell and her son Charlie Farrell (6) from our Tipperary Branch, Colm Feeley, Deirdre Howard and her son Ronan Howard from our Kildare Branch, Deirdre Kennedy and her son Eoin Kennedy (6) from our Carlow Branch, Ciara O’Hanlonn and her daughter Seana O’Hanlon (6) from our Dublin Branch.
We’d also like to thank all of the Senators and TDs that turned up on the day to to show their support for our HB Fundays campaign.