The concerned mother of a 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome is pleading with the Department of Education to provide a special class at his primary school – St Comán’s Wood in Roscommon town – “for students with complex needs”.
Cian Mulry, who enters third class this September, has been diagnosed with having “a mild intellectual disability”, however Mam Liz, herself a nurse, claims her son’s not deemed eligible by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) as a candidate for this service.
“Cian’s a student with complex needs, but the department won’t provide a special class for my son or for other children in the same situation”.
Speaking to the Roscommon People, Mrs Mulry disclosed how, during the previous school year, her son, who is in a mainstream class containing 26 students, became so overwhelmed and distressed, he “hid under a table and lay down on the floor to avoid entering the classroom”.
Cian’s mother now fears that without the proper resources being allocated to the primary school, her youngest son will be placed into a situation where “he will not be able to cope”.
The Roscommon mother along with husband Tommy, also a nurse, is requesting the special complex needs class, which can cater for up to six children, be made available for Cian “so that he can get his education in the space that he needs”.
Insisting that the Department of Education should realise that, when dealing with a child’s education, “one size does not fit all”, Liz has made an impassioned appeal to Minister of State with responsibility for Special Education and Inclusion, Josepha Madigan TD.
“Cian has challenging behaviour, he has communication issues, he has sensory issues and he has issues with gross motor skills and I’ve asked Josepha Madigan to look at the full profile of the child”.
The Mulrys, who have two older sons, Conor (14) and Cathal (13), are very appreciative of the support they’ve received from their community.
“The community of Roscommon has been wonderful. They’ve got behind me and they’ve emailed Norma Foley, (Minister for Education) and Anne Rabbitte (Minister of State at the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and at the Department of Health), and I just hope they see common sense”.
Someone else who has thrown their full support behind the little boy who has “lots of friends”, and who “loves attending his hip hop dancing classes every Friday and enjoys his soccer and his swimming (Cian is part of Roscommon All Stars)” is St Coman’s Wood school principal Úna Feeley.
According to Liz, Ms. Feeley has “appealed to the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) in a bid to get them to approve the class for Cian and for other students who need them”.
While Liz agrees there are “four special classes provided for children with special needs” at St Coman’s Wood, she says they fall short of providing for Cian’s specific needs.
“They are broken into two for autistic children, one for children with a speech/language impairment and one for children with a hearing impairment, and the Department needs to recognise that there are other disabilities in schools and all need to be catered for”.
Liz says she is “dreading September because Cian will only receive thirty minutes a day resource teaching and that’s not good enough. The big class is too overwhelming for him, it’s too traumatic and it’s just not fair that my only alternative is to have him join a special class in Athlone; but I am not sending him to a different county where he would not know people, when he has friends here and everyone knows him”.