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  • Living

Giving Galway children a voice for life

Wednesday, 2nd August, 2017 10:59am

Story by Jacqueline Hogge
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Giving Galway children a voice for life

NIALL Coen (5) with his family in Brownsgrove. Photo: Ray Ryan

Giving Galway children a voice for life

NIALL Coen (5) with his family in Brownsgrove. Photo: Ray Ryan

A BABY’S first words are one of the most anticipated milestones in a child’s development and one that elicits much joy for parents who engage in the innocent battle of whether Mama or Dada will make it first past the post.

Children with special needs, however, are often stifled in their ability to communicate in a way most of us take for granted. But a charity set up in Galway over a decade ago is helping families break through the communication barrier that faces vulnerable children.
Voices for Down Syndrome Galway was set up in 2005 in the absence of State speech and language services. Twelve years on the service is supporting over 80 families and recent discussions with the HSE suggest the arrival of State led services is still a long way off.
One in every 335 children born in Galway has Down syndrome, with those affected by the condition suffering delayed development of speech and difficulty in articulation. Speech and language therapy, especially in childhood years, is critical to the development of adequate langue skills for life.
A recent fundraiser in Cortoon, Tuam, netted over €3,500 for the service, which relies solely on parental contributions and public donations to cover its annual costs of €130,000.
The two families who organised the Ice Cream Sunday event, Michael and Maria Coen and Noel and Ursula Kelly, have first-hand experience of how vital the services run by Voices are to children with Down syndrome.
Michael and Maria’s son Niall, 5, will return to Brownsgrove NS next month as a senior infant pupil. Up until a year ago the family were living in the UK, but their desire for their three young children to be educated in Ireland saw them take the decision to return home, before Niall started primary school.

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