Eight-year-old Daniel Webb from just outside Shinrone has Down Syndrome. He regularly visits speech therapists, physiotherapists and has various medical procedures, but Daniel’s mother Siobhan said it’s a Down Syndrome Ireland home teacher programme that has really seen him flourish.
She’s now hoping amateur cyclists from all across Offaly will saddle up and join cycling legend Sean Kelly for the inaugural Tour de Leinster charity challenge for Down Syndrome Ireland, which takes place September 18-21. The cycle is hoping to raise money not just for Down Syndrome Ireland’s home teaching programme, but also its adult literacy programmes, speech and occupational therapy, early development groups and social activities for children and adults.
Daniel lives with his parents George and Siobhan, brother Fred (13), pony Freckles and dog Annie. He goes to school in Carrig NS, and every Wednesday follows school with a session with his home teacher Miriam.
“He thoroughly enjoys working with Miriam and so a strong personal relationship has developed,” Siobhan explained. “Miriam has found the best system to engage him and she tailors her whole teaching method around his personality. He loves learning in this way. This enjoyment develops his confidence because he has come to realise - for the first time - that he can learn. Miriam sees the environment in which Daniel lives and identifies the motivating factors in his life and this too becomes an integral part of the teaching programme.”
Siobhan added that she’s convinced the home teacher programme is the most effective avenue to learning in Daniel’s life. “Since starting with Miriam he has started writing, numeric and basic reading,” she said. “She also does oral exercises in a fun way, using song, music, greetings, colours and role play. Things Daniel enjoys but specifically geared towards speech. Personally, I find the home teacher is empathetic and inspiring. She’s the only professional I can really click with, and this creates an immense source of personal encouragement. She comes with a track record of knowing Down Syndrome kids for whom the programme has worked and so provides a level of confidence that this is going to work for Daniel too.”
The home teaching programme that works so well for Daniel is provided by Down Syndrome Ireland, which fundraises almost 90% of what’s required to run all of its services. A new way to help raise those funds for Down Syndrome Ireland branches in Leinster is the Tour de Leinster, which is based on the hugely successful Tour de Munster event that has raised more than €1m since 2010 for Down Syndrome Ireland Munster branches.
Sean Kelly plans to join cyclists for the challenging charity event that will take in a 600km route through some of the most beautiful scenery in Leinster’s twelve counties. On Thursday, September 18, cyclists will leave Dublin city, cycling for four days through the province before ending up at Howth Hill in Dublin on September 21. All cyclists participating must cover their own costs, so all funds raised through the inaugural cycle will go directly to ten branches of Down Syndrome Ireland in Leinster as well as supporting a number of national projects.
“The funds will make all the difference to the lives of people with Down Syndrome in Leinster as well as their families by providing vital services and facilities in each county,” CEO of Down Syndrome Ireland Pat Clarke said.
“Our goal in DSI is to assist children born with Down syndrome to be as independent as possible. To achieve this, it is imperative that when they are young they have access to speech therapy and occupational therapy and as they grow we want to help them with other areas of their lives such as independent living and employment opportunities. The objective is to ensure that each individual is developed to his/her full potential and to help people with Down Syndrome make their own futures as bright and independent as possible. This all requires a lot of funding however, and through the Tour de Leinster cyclists, more young people with Down Syndrome will be helped in a practical way.”