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One Clare family has stressed that joining the Down Syndrome Ireland Branch in the county has opened up a whole new world of support at a time in which they “were fearful for the future.”

Ennis native Orla Clohessy lives with her husband and three sons in Clarecastle. She remembered receiving the news leading up to the birth of her youngest son Harry (4), that he would be born with down syndrome.

“We were completely devastated. We hadn’t a clue of what we were facing. There was sadness mixed up with a bit of fear. We had a lack of knowledge. Looking back, we had an opinion on something we knew nothing about,” she told The Clare Echo.

His birth was met with hesitancy, and at first, a lack of assurance in what to do. Prompted by her local health nurse to join the Down Syndrome Ireland Clare Branch, Orla decided to make contact. She now accredits this as a saving grace that has offered an unrivalled support and clarity. She recalled the Branch’s Christmas party in 2017 where “for the first time we walked into a room and nobody looked at us differently. We were part of a community, with something in common with others. There were no sympathetic smiles and everyone asked the normal questions,” she added.

The Clare Branch has allowed Orla and Harry to avail of subsidised speech and language therapy and also offers services like horse riding and swimming lessons amongst many others. The therapy has been instrumental in helping Harry pass through developmental stages. Fundraising is done from the ground up and is an essential component to the overall success of the Branch, which is closely aligned with The Clare Crusaders, that offers a number of support services.

From August 5th to 8th, Orla will be out bucket shaking in Ennis with her husband at the Tour de Munster, which is the main fundraiser that supports the branch throughout the year. This annual tour comprises of a 600km charity cycle, which is now in its 21st year of existence and since 2010, has provided Munster branches of the DSI with over €3m in funding.

One of the main incentives to get out and donate, Orla informed, was that any funds raised will stay within its respective county and help out the local branch. For children like Harry, this means the continued support of vital speech and language therapy and other professionals that help push him along the developmental stages.

“For anyone that may have a child with down syndrome, I encourage you to reach out. It certainly lifted a huge weight off our shoulders. The main element of the Branch is both support and communication. Children with down syndrome have their difficulties but they are more unique. Once you get over the shock you can embrace it all. It helps having a community of parents of all groups and ages that can offer advice and feedback,” she concluded.

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