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'Huge battle' Crystal Swing's Dervla opens up about son's 'severe' autism for first time

She said that the lack of services in her local area for children with autism is “frightening.”


Dervla Burke O'Connor with her son Paul (Instagram)

Dervla Burke O'Connor with her son Paul (Instagram)

Dervla Burke O'Connor with her son Paul (Instagram)

Crystal Swing star Dervla Burke O’Connor has opened up about her son’s “very, very severe” autism.

The Cork native and her husband Tim have found themselves “begging every day” for appropriate services to be made available for their five-year-old son Paul.

Speaking on RedFM, she said that the lack of services in her local area for children with autism is “frightening.”

“At the moment myself and my husband are fighting a huge battle as parents to ensure that our son is getting the proper services that he needs. There really are no services as such a huge lack of school spaces [in Cork],” she explained.

“There are special schools called units, attached to mainstream primary schools, which cater for autistic children. But unfortunately Paul is gone past that, so what he will need is a special school.

“At the moment Paul is attending a pre-school unit, I have to say they are fantastic and his teacher is so kind, gentle and patient but Paul will need more going forward. It’s essential for him to get a place in a special school.”

Dervla said that she had to give up her music career to become Paul’s full-time career and emotionally spoke about the struggles that she, Tim, and their daughter Hannah face every day.

“He is the light of our lives and we absolutely adore him, but life with Paul is very difficult,” she told listeners.

“I’m finding it increasingly difficult to look after him because he is non-verbal and cannot communicate his needs to us and he has a lot of frustration so he lashes out a lot.

“It's through no fault of his own, but everything in our home has been damaged.

“He’s broken screens, many televisions, pulled down curtain rails, he’s constantly on kitchen tables, countertops, it’s a miracle he’s not caused damaged to his brain from falling.”

“All mirrors and glass have had to be taken down for his safety.

“Our house is like a prison. Every door in the house is locked, all kitchen cupboards are locked.

“He has no fear because he has no understanding, he sees the world through completely different eyes.”

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Dervla added that she’s “appalled” at how her family and others are being treated and made a plea on behalf of Paul for support.

“I’m his mother and carer, I do everything I possibly can for him but sometimes it’s hard to watch him 24/7,” she said.

“For someone who was out on the social scene for years, I’m now imprisoned in my home. Paul has regressed drastically and we are getting no support.

“My child deserves an education. All of these children do, they deserve dignity, respect, it is a constitutional right.

“Even though Paul has very complex needs, he has intelligence inside of him, and I know a special school would be the key to unlocking it.”

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