Limerick mum's plea following two-year wait for respite care for son with autism

Daniel Keating


Daniel Keating


Limerick mum's plea following two-year wait for respite care for Autistic son

Catherine Griffin with her son Cathal at their home in Ballyneety | Picture: Dave Gaynor

A YOUNG mother of a boy with severe autism says she has “nowhere to turn” having waited over two years for respite care for her child.

Five-year-old Cathal Griffin who attends Caherline NS was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. His mother Catherine Griffin, 34,  now has her hands full caring for her autistic son as well as his younger brother Joey, aged four.

Cathal, who is nonverbal, has been put on a waiting lists for two different facilities.

His condition requires round the clock care, which Catherine, said can “take its toll.”

“I am a full-time carer day and night, and without hesitation gave up my career to look after Cathal, there's no help and nowhere to turn,” she said.

Ms Griffin who has been asked to be bridesmaid at her sister's wedding next year, doesn't know if she can attend, as she has nobody who is able to look after her son.

The mother-of-two whose parents and sisters are her main support said: “He has been two years on a list for Red House [in Patrickswell] and I have been told to forget about getting him in there.

“If he gets the respite care he needs, he will be in an environment where he can learn to manage his behavioural issues and be inclined to do things more for two people rather than one, especially in a disciplined environment, and for me, I would get to rest,” she added.

Ms Griffin feels she is not getting the adequate support for Cathal's needs.

“The bigger he gets, the harder it will be,” she pointed out.

During a visit to Ms Griffin’s home this week, the Leader was shown a number of HSE documents and reports outlining Cathal’s condition and his treatment needs.

According to Ms Griffin, the five-year-old has been classified as level three for minimal communication which Ms Griffin said "is the  most severe grade for autism," and level two for behaviour, which she explained would be "moderate."

Ms Griffin has expressed her frustration with the lack of support from the HSE and said she even decided to go private, paying €350 for one report.

When contacted by the Limerick Leader this week, a spokesperson for the Rehab Group said: “RehabCare offers a range of services and supports to people with disabilities throughout the country. Our team at Red House provides critical respite to children with autism from all over the Midwest region who have varying levels of support needs. Funded by the HSE and we endeavour to provide the best possible service within our funding structure. RehabCare acknowledges and understands there is a demand for our important services, however the level of services and supports we can provide is dependent on the level of funding provided to us by the HSE.”

A spokesperson from the HSE said that in the Mid-West, children with complex needs can avail of multi-disciplinary supports through seven Early Intervention Teams and six School Age Teams.

“These teams are staffed by a range of clinicians, including psychologists, speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and physiotherapists. The teams offer a range of services and supports, both to individual children and their families.”

Ms Griffin said that it is “all reports but there is no follow up and interventions. If anything happens to me, I don't know what would happen to Cathal, as my parents wouldn't be able to look after him.”.

According to the mother, who previously worked in hotel management , the last time Cathal got speech therapy was seven months ago and she said” it's not the therapist's fault, it's down to staffing issues”.

The mother who lives in Kilcoolan, near Ballyneety village is looking for a guide dog that can help and support Cathal. "I have been told by other mothers that it could help with Cathal's temperament and calm him down." she explained.

“I do believe he has a great chance at living an independent life, once he gets the therapies he needs,” she added 

Acknowledging the increased demand for autism services across the country and in the Mid West, the spokesperson for the HSE  said: "In general, there is a high and increasing demand for respite services for children across the country and the Mid-West is no different in this regard. We do provide respite through our partner agencies.  While regulation of services in recent years has served to bring about improvements to standards, it has also resulted in some reductions in the number of bed nights available due, for example, to tighter controls in areas such as sharing of facilities.”

While the HSE explained that they don't comment on individual cases, they have encouraged families and parents who are in difficulty to contact a health professional most familiar with them, or if they parent feels strong enough about the issue and would like a personal examination of their case they can do so through their complaints mechanism “Your Service Your Say.”