Marian Harkin TD
“We must redouble our efforts to ensure proper early intervention with adequate support for children with Down syndrome.”
This was stated by Independent TD for Sligo/Leitrim/North Roscommon and South Donegal, Marian Harkin on the occasion of World Down Syndrome Day, yesterday March 18,
“Early intervention is crucial for children with Down syndrome, and this must include services such as speech and language therapy and occupational therapy.
"Unfortunately, there is a chronic shortage of therapists in each HSE region to assist these children in their early years.
"Early intervention provides them with the foundation to lead independent lives and to achieve their full potential.
"Every parent wants this for their children, and it is unjust and inhumane if we leave some children behind because of lack of services,” she said.
The most recent figures showed that almost 21,000 children were still awaiting a first-time assessment for occupational therapy – more than half of those had been waiting more than a year,
“At the end of 2020, there were 16,446 children awaiting an initial speech and language assessment, including almost 4,000 children who have been waiting for at least a year,” she stated.
She added: “We urgently need to find solutions, and this will require both short and long term planning. In the short-term we need to return therapists to their intervention role because many therapists are tied up doing assessment of need.
"With the chronic shortage of therapists, we need to ensure they can all provide these vitally necessary services, and we must employ other staff to carry out assessment of need for services”.
Calling for a tripling of the number of therapists, she said that there had to be adequate college places available in order to have a steady flow of newly qualified therapists.
“We also need to ensure that positions are attractive enough in order to retain our therapists. We also need greater investment in these services, but it’s money well spent because it means more and more people with Down syndrome can live independent lives and can access employment and not require State care or intervention for all of their lives,” she said.
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