Republic of Ireland news

New team can be ‘game-changer' for deaf and hard-of-hearing children – mother

Martha McManus with son Sean McManus Allen, whose deafness prevented accurate assessment and support for additional needs (Fintan Clarke/PA)
Rebecca Black, PA

The mother of a deafblind teenager has hailed a new team as having the potential to be a “game-changer” for detecting additional issues.

The 470,000 euro multi-disciplinary team will confront missed, delayed or inappropriate diagnosis of additional issues for deaf and hard-of-hearing youngsters.

A delay in securing proper treatment for 16-year-old Sean McManus Allen forced his parents to secure private treatment.

It is now hoped that other children and young adults will not have to endure the same experience.

Up to now, deaf and hard-of-hearing children with complex needs have been assessed against the benchmark of those who can hear.

The HSE-funded team will begin its work on Wednesday at national deafness and hearing loss charity Chime’s Deaf Village Ireland centre in Cabra, Dublin.

“There has been a barrier to diagnosing other clinical issues for young deaf people, including Sean. No child should be left behind,” said the teenager’s mother Martha McManus, from South Dublin.

“Sean’s deafness kept getting in the way of an accurate assessment and support for his additional needs.

“He was diagnosed as having ‘moderate’ intellectual disability, but it was mild, at worst. His language delay during assessment was brought on by being deaf.”

After a lengthy wait, Sean was diagnosed with ADHD in 2020, which is now being treated.

Ms McManus said the five-person multi-disciplinary team is a “game-changer” which will provide children and young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing timely and specialist clinical assessments, conclusive diagnosis and ongoing support.

Martha McManus with son Sean McManus Allen, whose deafness prevented accurate assessment and support for additional needs (Fintan Clarke/PA)

Chime says 40% of the 200 children born with hearing loss in the Republic every year have additional clinical needs which often go undiagnosed.

The new team will address the growing rate of socio-emotional difficulties among young people who are deaf or hard of hearing – currently over three times that of the typical hearing population.

It will provide a range of support to children and families, focusing on diagnosis and early intervention, including psychological, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy support.

The charity’s chief executive Mark Byrne said: “Chime has seen heart-breaking cases of children receiving inconclusive or wrong diagnoses, which can set them back and deny them opportunities they deserve.

“Families have been forced to go private and travel abroad to access the expert professionals they need. The new multi-disciplinary team changes everything for these families.”

The new team will serve deaf and hard-of-hearing children and young people aged up to the age of 25 through referral and will be launched by Minister of State for Disabilities at the Department of Children Anne Rabbitte on Wednesday.

She will tell the event that early intervention, conclusive diagnoses and ongoing clinical support are essential to the wellbeing of young people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“I am delighted to be making good on a promise that deaf children with complex needs can begin to receive services they deserve and live a life in which they may reach their potential,” the minister said.

Republic of Ireland news