A Story of Inspiration
"On the 13th July Aoife achieved a dream that began thirteen years ago as half a thought.
We're a family who like to climb mountains
and although this is not something Aoife has
ever found easy I've never believed in putting
obstacles in her way. My outlook has been if the rest of the family do something then why not Aoife.
In 1997 Aoife joined us on her first attempt
at climbing Croagh Patrick. On that occasion
she got about one third of the way.
Five years later Aoife tried again and got
two thirds of the way.
I felt that was good progress and thought one day she will succeed.
On the 24th August Aoife proved me right and made it to the top of Patrick's Mountain as she now calls it. She was thrilled with herself and I was very proud of her.
A year later she climbed Mweelrea, the highest mountain in Connaught.Coming down Mweelrea I thought, would it be possible for Aoife to climb Carrauntoohil, everyone else in the family had. I just let that thought rest with me.
On the 13th July 2010, her sister Laura and I happened to be coming through Killarney and I decided to give her the opportunity to try. Wearing her Team Connaught Special Olympics kit Aoife impressed us all by climbing Carrauntoohil. I was so proud of her, the way she kept going when it was really difficult. When she got tired she showed courage and determination to succeed. She expressed a great sense of achievement when she reached the top and when she got back down. It took her 10 hours and 15 minutes to complete it and eventhough she was very tired and wet towards the end, - it came raining for the last hour, - she had a smile on her face most of the day. She really is an inspiration to us all. I was also proud of Laura who waited patiently and encouraged her all day.
Like all of us there are times Aoife can go it alone and do some things she wants to on her own. At other times she needs support and encouragement but with that support and encouragement anything is possible. Sometimes we can believe in ourselves, other times we need others to believe in us. With that belief great things can happen".
Mary Beston (Aoife's mum)
"After a full Irish Breakfast of 4 sausages, 4 bacon, potatoe cubes, black and white pudding, toast and much more, we felt well set up to take on Aoife's big challenge, which was to try to climb Carrauntoohil the highest mountain in Ireland. I first climbed this mountain when I was seven. I'm now fourteen and have climbed it four times and was really hoping Aoife would be able to climb it too.
Aoife was in great form and made it to a very steep ascent called the devil's ladder in no time. She did a great job on the ladder and eventhough it was so steep and high and very difficult she put in a lot of effort. It was great to see Aoife still smiling when she came out over the top of the ladder, you could just tell she was pleased with herself. We still had an hours climb to go before we reached the summit but even Aoife could tell that we had the hardest part done. When we reached the top it was extremely cold but Aoife took off her jacket to reveal her Team Connaught Special Olympics kit (something else Aoife is very proud of). She stood by the cross with a big smile on her face for all the photos and it was obvious she was really proud of what she had just done.
It was a hard and slow descent but Aoife never gave up. The rain made our final hour miserable but by this time Aoife was recognising landmarks which indicated we were almost finished, these kept her going.
After 10 hours and 15 minutes we got back to the car. It had no doubt been a hard and tiring climb but Aoife was full of pride and happiness and she had every right to be. It was a huge achievement and she should be proud of herself as it was such a hard climb. I was delighted for her and glad that I was part of it, encouraging her along the way. She is a star".
Laura Beston (Aoife's sister)
To Be No Different
Last spring I started supporting Ciaran who has autism in his local Montessori school. Like many children with autism, Ciaran did not have good social skills and showed little interest in what other children were doing or in joining them. Ciaran enjoyed certain activities that did not involve interacting with others. When Ciaran was encouraged to share with, or join other children he got quite agitated and yet he related well to adults.
Over the following few weeks, I tried various approaches to encourage him to spend more time in the company of his peers. This involved a lot of physical and verbal prompting and gradually I could see that Ciaran was trying.
Following the summer break, Ciaran was unable to return to Montessori as there was no place and he was enrolled in local pre-school. This was a big change for Ciaran with a new environment, new children, new staff and a total new experience which would bring new challenges.
It was late October before Ciaran started to settle into his new surroundings and interestingly I felt he was more relaxed in the pre-school environment due to the less structured approach. I shadowed Ciaran while at pre-school, to avoid him being singled out as different, but I ensured he participated in activities that he enjoyed and this often involved working with other children. We varied the number of children in the group activities until we found the right size group that still gave Ciaran his own space.
Ciaran is very determined when he puts his mind to something. As his verbal communication was limited, I introduced PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) and over a short period of time he was making great attempts to pronounce new words and express his needs.
The biggest bonus for me was to see Ciaran gradually become familiar with other children and to start making friends and is comfortable interacting daily – without my assistance.
By the end of the pre-school year there was a huge milestone when Ciaran took a decision and asked his parents if he could ‘go to John’s house’. Ciaran and his new friend play daily together. This would not have seemed possible one year ago. Ciaran has now started football training with his new friend and I have no doubt that there will be many more friendships to be made in the coming months and years.
Mum's Day Off
Receiving a wedding invitation normally conjures up thoughts of a new outfit, visiting the beauty salon and having a day off. Not so for me, my immediate thought was how would our daughter Ella, who has autism, cope without Mum for a day.
After discussing my anxieties with Ella’s support team, I started working on a ‘social story’. This involved using pictures and talking to Ella about me being away and what would happen on the day. I felt Ella understood the ‘story’, but obviously had concerns.
The day of the wedding arrived and I anxiously went off. It was late when we returned home and were delighted to hear that Ella thoroughly enjoyed her day and was not upset at all.
Ella continues to achieve goals. She is now toilet trained and can ask for a drink. It is a dream come true to hear her talk. Ella is attending mainstream pre-school without any support worker and now enjoys coming shopping with me.
We are looking forward to Ella attending her first summer camp and then on to mainstream primary school in September. I am delighted with the progress that Ella has made.
A Sister's Dream
Our eldest child Sarah was receiving her First Holy Communion in May and it was important to Sarah, and to us, that we attended the Mass and celebration as a family.
Our concern was around our younger son Michael, who has autism, and how he would cope with the event.
After discussion with our support team, a plan was put in place to gradually introduce Michael to church; starting off with visits at quiet times and then attending weekly Mass were there were not many people and building up to attending Sunday Mass. Michael’s support worker accompanied us through this journey.
The First Holy Communion day arrived and Sarah was so happy that her whole family was with her for her special day – just like all her friends! Michael coped very well, needing only a short break during the party but quickly rejoining the group.
Michael continues to make great progress and is now toilet trained.
Shopping has become less stressful and he is enjoying playing in the park and even going to get his hair cut. Michael is trying very hard to talk and it is wonderful to see him starting to take an interest in playing with other children.
Members of the Early Childhood Team, in conjunction with parents, have been facilitating a parent/toddler group which takes place on a monthly basis.
One aim of the group is to allow parents the opportunity to get together on a regular basis, to share information and experiences, and support one another over a cup of tea and the odd biscuit!
The group provides the children with a chance to develop their social skills, and in turn they have made great friends with each other.
An essential aspect of the group is the development of individual milestones for each child - this requires lots of play and lots of fun!
This particular group of children will be moving on to start their individual preschools in September but we have made plans to continue to meet up as a group on a 3-monthly basis to keep in touch. Moving on to preschool is a big occasion in the lives of families with young children, and we wish them continued success on their journey.