herald

Thursday 24 August 2017

Brave Conor's battle to stay on at school

CONOR Dawson from Clondalkin would love to be able to make a full-time return to education this September – but that option isn't open to him.

Conor (18), who is visually impaired and has the mental capacity of a three-year-old, is being left "in limbo", as a result of HSE cutbacks, says his mum.

Frankie Dawson (44) said that he is one of a group of 11 teens affected, who formerly attended Stewarts School in Palmerstown.

"Prior to the summer, they finished their education and are not under the auspices of the Department of Education any more," said Frankie.

TUMOUR

"What has happened until this year, is that the children finished their education and then after the summer holidays moved into the adult education services, which were under the umbrella of Stewarts but funded by the HSE," said Frankie.

But parents were informed that the funding is not there to provide a five-day a week service for their children, she said.

"Conor has been attending Stewarts since he was two-and- a-half. The children, many of whom have complex needs, have been together for all this time," she said.

The brave teen was born with William's Syndrome.

When he was four, he developed a brain tumour, and underwent chemotherapy, which affected his brain. He also lost his eyesight.

"Every day he is asking where the bus is and his friends. That was his life. It was everything he knew," said Frankie.

The parents had believed that their children would move into a five-day-a-week adult education service, based at a Dublin resource centre.

But what is being offered is a two-day-a-week placement at a community based service, Frankie said.

"We don't know where they would be placed, but it would be more a community service where they would be taking them out to do activities like swimming or horseriding.

"We want a structured environment that is suitable for their needs, both individually and as a group," said Frankie.

RESOURCES

A HSE spokesperson said: "HSE Dublin Mid Leinster is making every effort to provide day services or rehabilitative training places to school leavers with a disability based on the assessed needs of the individual school leaver, within the resources available.

"The HSE has been working with Stewarts Care Ltd Palmerstown to ensure that they maximise the use of the available resources in terms of the level of support provided to the 2013 school leavers."

Stewarts has committed to maintaining the clinical services available to this year's school leavers along with transport requirements where required, the HSE added.

fdillon@herald.ie

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