Friday 28 October 2016

Girl (5) with Downs told to get Special Needs Assistant for summer camp

Amber Pyper with her daughter Lily.
Amber Pyper with her daughter Lily.

A CHILDREN'S summer camp has defended its decision to refuse to enrol a girl with Down Syndrome unless she is accompanied by an adult or Special Needs Assistant (SNA).

Angry mum Amber Pyper says she was furious after being told her five-year-old daughter Lily couldn't take part in the annual Livewire Camp at Letterkenny Community Centre.

Ms Pyper says she was initially told there was availability at the camp, but this was later overturned because of her daughter's condition.

"I was told there was availability," said the mother.

"Then I mentioned two little words 'Down Syndrome'. There was the awkward silence that was for a split second, but seems like an eternity.


"I was told by a member of staff that Lily couldn't enrol for summer camp without a full-time SNA with her, as she has one at school every day.

"All Lily wants to do is play with her peers and do all the fun things they do.

"She may not colour as fast as the other 4 to 6-year-olds and may have to be asked if she needs the toilet a couple more times than them but to think these little things exclude her from community life is so sad.

"How selfish a society we are becoming because Lily would at times take a little more time and patience," she said.

"So we either find the funds for a full-time SNA for the week alongside the cost of the camp or she remains segregated from her peers on her summer holidays," said Amber.

A spokesperson for Letterkenny Community Centre said that it is a non-profit organisation and it simply did not have the funding to provide SNAs.

In a statement the organisation said it has a long history and track record in providing for people of all ages and abilities and disabilities.

The centre added that they are more than happy to meet with Amber and Lily to resolve the matter.

Management also took the decision that children who require individual assistance to participate in a camp should be accompanied by a responsible and authorised adult.

"While the centre in the past was able to finance and subsidise this supervision it is financially no longer in a position to do so," a spokesperson said.

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