Friday, April 28, 2017
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Bernie Fay introduces two well-established respite and support programmes which continue to benefit people with disabilities and their families.

  • Homesharing is an idea whereby people in services go and spend the night with a family in the community.
  • It has a great effect on everyone involved.
  • Services providing this have sprung up around Ireland.

The Muiríosa Foundation provides both respite and long-term support though the Share a Break and Room to Share schemes.

The Share a Break scheme has been developing over the past 30 years.  It provides respite in a family setting on an on-going basis to children and adults, the range of intellectual disability being from mild to severe.  The overarching aim of Homesharing is that the person placed feels part of the Host Family.  The processes involved in these schemes should have this as the ultimate aim.

This service allows people to have an individualised form of respite.  The scheme continues to expand each year.  This scheme is administered by the Muiríosa Foundation and funded by the HSE.  The Muiríosa Foundation administers the largest scheme in Ireland:

  • The counties involved are Westmeath, Longford, Laois, Offaly and south Kildare;
  • In 2015, 138 children availed of 5,739 days of Share a Break with 138 hosts;
  • A total of 135 adults availed of 6,682 days of respite under the scheme;
  • There is a total of 218 host families involved in the scheme.

The testimony below illustrates the important role this scheme plays in the lives of people with an intellectual disability and their families.

Catherine Keane (mother of Aidan (aged 10)): “Looking after my son is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding.  He requires a high level of supervision and it is difficult to maintain this on a daily basis.  It is very tiring, especially when you have other children whose needs also need to be met.

I have no family support network to help with his care.  I have come to depend and rely on Share a Break in order to help me maintain the level of care he requires.  Our life is structured around our son.  We have to work around him and his needs.  My other children also have to work around him, in terms of where he can go, what activities he can participate in etc.

Share a Break for me is a break. It is the only time aside from school when my son is away from home.  I do not have to worry.  I know he is safe and happy.  It gives me a day of freedom and a break from routine.  In his absence, the house is more peaceful.  It is even a break from the noise.  I have used this time to do even simple things such as go for a walk, sleep, go into town and walk around the shops with my daughter or go for lunch.  This is time when you know you can plan something, have a rest or just spend time with your other children.

We benefit as a family also.  My daughter can choose a programme on TV.  She recently started ballet.  This would not be possible without Share a Break.  Share a Break gives us the opportunity to experience a little normality – to do things that others take for granted.  I am very thankful for this.  It is invaluable to me and I do not know how I would manage without it”.

Increasingly, families are opting for family-based short breaks rather than seeking residential respite.  However, if some people prefer the latter service, it is important that this remains an option for them.

The Room to Share scheme has been in operation since 1993 and provides long term, permanent care in a host family setting to people aged 18 and over.

Those currently availing of the scheme live in Counties Longford, Westmeath, Laois, Offaly and Kildare.  The range of disability of those who avail of the scheme is from mild to severe.

What is distinctive about the Room to Share scheme is that people live with their host families on a full time, permanent basis.

In 2015, 22 adults lived permanently with families under this scheme.  These people feel part of the host family and this is a mutual feeling.   The testimonial below illustrates the way in which one’s quality of life can be enhanced by this scheme.

Thomas is a 63 year old man who enjoys the outdoor life and is particularly fond of working with small animals and doing gardening.  Six years ago, due to challenges pertaining to his family, Thomas ended up living in a large residential centre.  Those who were living there had needs which were greater than those being experienced by Thomas.  He became depressed and withdrawn.  It was agreed that his quality of life was being compromised by living there. 

Thomas started going for weekends to a respite homesharing family and very much enjoyed this.

His mood changed and it was decided that he would go to live on a full-time basis with this family.  He lives happily with his new family and enjoys time spent with their dogs and loves the work in their extensive gardens.  Thomas enjoys going to football matches with the family and likes the peace and tranquillity of the countryside.  Thomas also attends a day service and likes the time he spends there interacting with friends.

Equity and Inclusion:

The principles of equity and inclusion are realised in Homesharing.  Studies undertaken on traditional respite in comparison to Homesharing models indicate high levels of satisfaction with the latter scheme (Merriman et al (2007), Murphy, T (2010).

It is hoped that this can be expanded further in the future.

 

References:

Merriman, B. and Canavan, J (2007)

“Towards Best Practice in the Provision of Respite Services for People with Intellectual Disability and Autism”, Galway Child and Family Research Centre UCG

Murphy, T (2010) “Room for One More? – Contract Families Pilot Scheme ’07 – ‘09” Brothers of Charity Services, Galway and Ability West, Galway.

Author Bio

Bernie Fay is Head Social Worker with the Muiríosa Foundation.  She has been working on the Homesharing Projects since 1983.

Stephen Kealy

There is nothing like the sun to encourage people to wear bright clothes, go to the sea side, have fun – to do all those things only thought about during wet, dreary and cold winter weather. Part of the enjoyment of holidays is thinking about exotic places to visit with family and friends.

People with intellectual disabilities often talk about their friends – primarily family members, staff or people met during a befriending scheme. While there are many super and innovative initiatives to support people with an intellectual disability to participate more fully in the community, sustaining friendships through initiatives like circle of friends is often dependent on the goodwill of family or staff.

From time to time, outside of special Olympics, the adventure sport achievements of a person with an intellectual disability makes the headlines – a parachute jump – wall climbing – sailing – all achieved by support from parents, friends or staff. Unfortunately for many people with an intellectual disability, their opportunities for risk-taking are often curtailed by staff because of the restrictions of insurance underwriters, or by parents, because of perceived risk, lack of imagination or an understanding that the person is not in a position to give informed consent.

To go on a holiday, people with an intellectual disability may also have to fund, from their own resources, a support staff to accompany them – limiting choice and experiences. Yes, it is important to ensure people are safe but is there a better way of achieving the holiday goal without adding a cost disincentive?

Thankfully, there are more commercial organisations offering accessible holidays for people with disabilities. Challenging holidays requiring active participation but on the basis of an appropriate skill fit, from tall ship sailing to quiet lounging breaks with good food, recreational opportunities and lovely environments.

Taking time to involve the person with an intellectual disability in holiday planning provides an opportunity for teaching, learning, and the exercise of more autonomy – to have the person at the centre of the process.

Sarah Lennon of Inclusion Ireland, in her article on the progress of the proposed capacity legislation, flags some of the impact that legislation will have for decision making for people with an intellectual disability – essentially making sure that people take time out to hear what they want and to act accordingly – putting the person at the centre of a decision process. Is it possible that this legislation, when enacted, will enable greater risks to be taken by people with an Intellectual Disability or taken on their behalf? After so long maybe real change is in the air!

Brian Manning interviews John Byrne about his extensive travelling around the world.

John Byrne Train
John Byrne talks about his travelling all around the world. He focuses on his amazing trip on the Trans-Siberian train from St. Petersburg in Russia to Beijing in China. He encourages other service users to get out there in the world and take a look.

How many holidays have you gone on?

I’ve lost count, I tend to remember the big ones.

Do you travel by yourself or do you go with other people?

I go mostly on my own, like if I go around Europe I’d tend to go on my own.

Where is the most exotic place you’ve visited?

Well, Romania, Georgia, Armenia, Bulgaria and that, I was in Albania and all them places.

Do you ever go on holidays with people?

I went a few times down the country (in Ireland) with assistance, to give a dig out, give them a hand. And sometimes I go on holiday with my brother.

How do you find travelling on your own? Is it dangerous? Is it lonely?

No, not really, you get used to it. Well, maybe a bit, back in the ’90’s, when I started going to

these strange countries but when you get to know them first-hand you get a feel for where you are going.

If you get to a far-away country like Kazakhstan how do you book a room and how do you understand people?

It’s very hard when you get into places like Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan because English isn’t spoken very much. They might ask you do you speak Russian but I don’t speak Russian. Russian is like a second language in all those countries around there. But you get by. I know someone in Kazakhstan and I went to visit them.

How often do you like to get away?

A few times a year if I can but it depends on funds. I don’t drink or smoke, you know, I like to save my money for travel.

john byrne 2

Your passport must have a lot of stamps in it!

It does, and visas too. After you pass Romania and those countries you need a visa for Russia, Mongolia, China and the like. I have a lady called Hannah in Dublin who helps me get visas. She works in Visa First in Stephen’s Green, Dublin.

 Have you been through any border crossings?

I crossed a few. From Kyrgyzstan into Kazakhstan. It was ok. Sometimes there are armed guards. The problem is that Kyrgyzstan is so poor and Kazakhstan’s one of the richest places out that way so a lot of people want to go there.

 People reading this might imagine these places to be very dangerous.

Anywhere at all can be dangerous. Sure, Dublin City at night time can be dangerous.

You went on a big trip recently?

Yes, in 2013. Myself and my brother we flew from Dublin to Helsinki, Finland. We stayed there 2 nights and had a gander around the city.

Then we took a high speed train to St. Petersburg, where we met up with a group of tourists and checked out the canals and lakes by boat. It was the Summertime, so it was bright till about 11 o’clock. This year when they put the hour back (for daylight savings time) they decided not to change it anymore.

After 2 days in St. Petersburg we took the train to a place called Vladimir, and then on to Suzdal, and from there to Moscow. We stayed there for 2 nights and visited the Kremlin and the undergrounds. Then we took the Eastbound train to Irkutsk, which lasted about 3 days. When we got there, we went to a small local village and the man who organised the trip, his name was Eugene, showed us local life, local cooking. There was rock-climbing but my brother and I decided not to chance it so we went for nice walks in the forests.

The local people were so nice so we decided to go into the local community hall where there were discos. The kids were in there, there were no adults, the kids were very good, they played their music and all. Next we travelled back in to Irkutsk, which is beside a big lake that is so big you think you are looking at the sea!

Next, we took a train to Mongolia, to a city called Ulaan Bataar, the capital city. A nice place was the Buddhist temple in the city. Years ago, all the people in Mongolia used to live in tents called ‘yurts’ so we went to a camp to see people living like this.

yurtsIt was a really beautiful place with lovely scenery and more home-cooking again! We went back to Ulaan Bataar and were fed up eating strange food. Luckily enough a few weeks beforehand a KFC had opened up in the city! So we said we would go to KFC for a change.

Next up was a train to Beijing which took over a day. The views were amazing and we passed through the desert. At the Chinese border the train stopped and we had our passports checked. Next thing we know the wheels had to be changed on the train because the tracks or the wheels are different. So, off we went and we arrived into Beijing into one of the busiest stations you could ever see! After we got to our hotel we went for a look around. I said to my brother, “there’s a McDonald’s! I’m goin’ there.” Because I’m a little fussy with what I eat. I’m afraid I might get sick. I have that on my mind. But I tell you what I lived on…..Chinese noodles. They were nice and I bought my own tea and that.

great wall of china

The group we were with were nice. We went to see the Great Wall of China which was amazing and as we were walking down we met 2 people from County Kildare. Even though you are so far away you will always meet someone from Ireland. My brother and I went by ourselves to see Tiananmen Square because we like to see as much as possible.

Next we flew to Abu Dhabi and then home.

Do you have any plans for the future?

Yes, this year I’m just going to stay local. I’m going to Georgia in a few weeks’ time. Then just going to do an Inter-Rail in September. I’m going to Romania for a week at the end of July.

I’m going over by bus and coming home by flight. The bus goes from Belfast and travels all the way by land to Romania.

I hope to go to Australia by myself again next year. I’d like to travel from Melbourne to Darwin and see Ayers Rock. I’ll look at prices in the next few weeks. I can pay the flights off a little bit each week.

Next year I also want to travel starting off in Rosslare to Fishguard, Fishguard to London, London to Brussels, Brussels through Austria, Hungary and Romania, spend 2 days in Romania, from there go into Moldova, Ukraine and into Russia. I’d like to travel by myself, not with a group – on to Irkutsk, then Ulaan Bataar in Mongolia, then down to Beijing. Then I want to extend my trip down to Vietnam and into Cambodia and into Thailand. From Thailand I want to go down into Malaysia and then into Singapore. Then I want to take a flight to India for a few days to see what it’s like. Then on to Abu Dhabi and then Dublin.

That’s my plan for 2016, Please God.

Moscow

Would you encourage other service-users to travel?

Well, I would but not everyone has the same spirit as me. It’s not for everybody.

Do you think your travels have changed you?

Well, you see different countries and the way they look at life, their lifestyles. Some of the healthiest people you could meet.

Cormac Cahill of Inclusion Ireland shows us a little of what can be achieved in purpose-built, accessible accommodation for people with physical disabilities.

Accessible facilities 1
Muscular Dystrophy Ireland (MDI) have a ‘Home from Home’ apartment in Dublin. It is available for short-term stays for people with a physical disability and their friends and family members.

Muscular Dystrophy Ireland (MDI) is a voluntary organisation that provides information and support to people in Ireland with muscular dystrophy and allied neuromuscular conditions, and their families, through a range of support services.

The MDI ‘Home from Home’ apartment is located in a new purpose-built, fully accessible self-contained building in Dublin. It is available for short-term stays for people with a physical disability and their friends and family members.

The apartment consists of four bedrooms, a kitchen and a lounge area and can accommodate groups of one to six people.

Guests are asked to make a voluntary contribution of €25 per room, per night to stay in the apartment.

Accessible facilities 2

The apartment is equipped with aids and appliances, including ceiling and standing hoists, shower chairs, grab rails, an intercom system, emergency call buttons, emergency evacuation chairs, an adjustable kitchen counter and air mattresses.

Three of the four bedrooms in the apartment are fully accessible and contain Hi-Lo electric profile beds and ceiling tracking hoists.

Each of the bedrooms has its own bathroom, all of which are also equipped with a ceiling track hoist. The bathroom and shower can be accessed directly by use of the inter-connecting ceiling track hoists between the bedroom and bathroom. All visitors to the apartment are advised to bring their own slings.

Please note that the twixie clip slings do not work on the hoist system. The fourth bedroom contains a standard single bed and is primarily used by personal assistants and family members.

The kitchen is equipped with an adjustable motorised work top which enables the work surface height to be adapted to a suitable level for all users. It contains all modern appliances and laundry facilities.

Availability throughout the year varies, but the MDI is more than happy to accommodate anyone with a disability and their friend and family members when they can.

The ‘home from home’ has been used by people going to concerts, international visitors, as accommodation during or awaiting a hospital appointments and by people who wish get experience of Independent Living.

MDI provides information about how to use equipment within the apartment and other necessary information to help you to make the most of your stay.

MDI also provide you with information about services available in the local community, places to visit in Dublin and details about local public transport and other ways to get around Dublin.

Accessible facilities 3

To book the apartment please contact MDI on (01) 6236414 (from 9.00am-5.00pm) or email owen.collumb@mdi.ie.

Further details about the apartment and MDI can be found on www.mdi.ie

For more information, please follow this link: www.mdi.ie/home-from-home.html

Author Bio

Cormac Cahill, Communications & Information Officer

Inclusion Ireland, Unit C 2, The Steelworks, Foley Street, Dublin 1

Office: 01-8559891  Mobile: 086 837 3394  Fax:  01-8559904

cormac@inclusionireland.ie

www.inclusionireland.ie

On 29th September 2014 Irish Distillers, under the leadership of Denis O’Reilly of Difference Days, arrived at Rosanna Gardens to undertake a garden transformation. Difference Days was founded in 2009 to facilitate corporate socially responsible events, whereby staff from organisations experience an ‘alternative day out’ and give their labour for one day to benefit others - basically a team-building day with a difference! The Sunbeam Times spoke with Denis to ask how the process works and what the experience was like…

Difference Days team
  • Irish Distillers gave up a day of regular work to team up with Sunbeam House Services.
  • The goal was to get the 2 staff teams together and build a large garden in Ashford for the Sunbeam service-users.
  • The project was organised by Difference Days.

How did it come about that you undertook a garden renovation project at Rosanna?

Having done two previous Difference Days in Sunbeam House – one at Killarney Road, Bray (deck, football pitch and gym), and the other in Ballyraine, Arklow (woodland trail), both with staff from Hostelworld.com – I contacted John Hannigan and Bernard Fitzsimons to see if we could help with other requirements, as I had to find a suitable project for Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard who wanted to do a Difference Day with 250 of their staff.  Once I have a requirement I go and find a project – I knew how well we had worked with Bernard and all at Sunbeam before, so I knew we could work well together again.

What was the next step?

Bernard introduced me to the guys at Rosanna and showed me the overgrown rear space, and immediately I could see that it could be transformed and make Rosanna an even better place for the men and women that live there. I then got some feedback from Seamus Murphy and Bernard on what Rosanna would like.

Our landscaper Maurice Byrne and I then inspected the site with Bernard and we started to put together the proposed design – Maurice came up with some great ideas like redirecting the stream so we could make the island/memorial garden. The idea was to have a space that could be used by all the residents at Rosanna and other Sunbeam sections.  The raised beds would allow vegetables to be grown, the exercise trail would be used for fitness, and the BBQ area for having fun!  We then priced up the costs to implement the transformation of the space, and I arranged for Rosemary Garth – Communications Director, and John Carroll – Irish Distillers, to inspect the space and meet the residents.  They just loved the plans and the guys from Rosanna.

Once the project was approved by Irish Distillers we had a meeting with Bernard and planned the timescale for the preparation work to be undertaken by Maurice and Adam Rankin from Difference Days and supported by Bernard and his team.

How much preparation was required?

Maurice and Adam did around four weeks of preparation work (with Bernard’s team assisting) so that the shape of the garden was framed, ensuring that the Irish Distillers 250 strong team could complete the garden on their Difference Day.  In addition we had all materials delivered and tools ready.

On 28th September we had a site meeting with all the Sunbeam team that were assigned to help on the Difference Day, along with our Difference Day team, so everyone knew what their tasks were for the next day.

Tell us about the day itself-…

On the day itself, 29th September, DJ Ed (a resident of Rosanna) had his music pumping.  The Sunbeam team came together to welcome the Irish Distillers team as they arrived, and there was tea and pastries for everyone. We subdivided the teams into 15 projects and off we went and built the garden in 3 hours!   It was fantastic to have all the residents of Rosanna and many other clients from Sunbeam on site to help and to meet the Irish Distillers volunteers.  The support and camaraderie from staff and clients from Sunbeam was amazing.

We managed to get everything completed in the three hours – the Irish Distillers staff worked like mad and were truly amazing.  The garden came out better than anticipated and the feedback from the Irish Distillers crew was exceptional – they just loved meeting everyone, particularly the residents from Rosanna and other centres.  Irish Distillers were so proud of what they achieved on the day and what they left behind for the guys from Rosanna.  Rosemary Garth (Communications Director from Irish Distillers) stated that some of her colleagues commented it was the best team building day they had ever done!

rosanna project

SOME FACTS

225 Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard Staff

15 projects completed.

12 ton of beach cobble placed along the bed and banks of new stream.

110 ton of hardcore.

60 ton of Ballylusk dust used for wheelchair-accessible paths.

Equivalent to 4 tennis courts of rolled lawn laid.

49 wheelbarrows, 106 shovels, 39 rakes, 14 hammers, 24 spirit levels,

12 handsaws and 200 ear protectors provided.

Garden built in 3 hours.

PROJECTS

Project 1 – construct/plant stream bank

Project 2 – build 7 metres x 2.4 metres barrel style screen

Project 3 – build tree seat surround

Project 4 – build main roadway/circular section

Project 5 – construct exercise zone (8 zones)

Project 6 – construct picket fence 13 metres x 1.2 metres

Project 7 – build central pathway/boundary pathway

Project 8 – memorial garden (Joe Nolan)

Project 9 – construct bridge 4 metres x 1.6 metres

Project 10 – BBQ area – construct circular Ballylusk base and build equipment

Project 11 – bamboo screen 6 metre

Project 12 – old stream planting team and move to turf lawn project 3 & 13

Project 13 – construct gazebo/veg. planters/turf lawn area

Project 14 – screen/ballylusk rec. court 7 metres x 2.4 metres high

Project 15 – erect glasshouse.

SOME COMMENTS

It’s a beautiful garden and I like it very much and I really enjoy it – Sean Sheekey.

I want a swing in the garden – Christopher Doyle.

It’s excellent – Martin Byrne.

For Joe Nolan – Fintan Finnegan.

From the start it looked like a swamp, and now the way it is, is fantastic – Edward Byrne.

A good place to sit down on a sunny day – William Gregory.

The majority of clients would use the garden on a daily basis for exercise or even just sitting out or walking around.  Even though it’s cold at the moment, they wrap up and go out.  They are much more interested in using the garden now than they were before – Staff at Rosanna.

rosanna project 2

Bernard Fitzsimons:-

We took a garden that was very barren, and financially we could not achieve what was achieved by Difference Days.   Irish Distillers paid for everything and funded it all – Sunbeam House didn’t have to put their hand in their pocket for anything.

For two weeks before Difference Days arrived, a lot of preparation work was carried out by TÚS workers from Ballyraine, by Maurice and Adam of Difference Days, and by Rosanna staff and others.

The whole garden is called the Joe Nolan Memorial Garden, in memory of Joe Nolan who was a staff nurse at Rosanna but who sadly passed away last year.  Irish Distillers did not want any mention of themselves in the garden, as they were doing the work in the total spirit of giving back and didn’t want any undue publicity.  The local Red Cross were there in case of accidents, but thank God they weren’t required.  They donated their services free of charge.

When the work was finished, Irish Distillers provided a hot lunch via a catering company whom they had used before.  The food was amazing, and included two pig spit roasts!  Sunbeam then presented a cake to Irish Distillers.  Irish Distillers staff got back onto their buses and headed off to a conference, where I’m sure they had a chance to recover from their activities.

The TÚS workers couldn’t believe the change in the garden when they saw it after it was finished, and the garden was used that very first night for one of Sunbeam’s Rosanna staff who was celebrating a birthday.

I want to thank Denis, Adam and Maurice from Difference Days, Rosanna staff who helped out in advance (particularly the weekend beforehand), the Red Cross, Sunbeam staff and clients, and anyone who showed up and gave a hand in any way.

Bernard Fitzsimons

Author Bio

Bernard Fitzsimons is a staff member in Sunbeam House Services.

 

Denis O’Reilly founded Difference Days in 2009.

Martin and Evelyn Conneely take us on a tour of holidays with their son Jack…

Jack-at-the-Matterhorn

From a drawer in the wilds of Connemara to a five star hotel with a view of the pyramids, Jack, our “special” son, has had plenty of exposure to holiday experiences.

He is an only child, born in 1990- Our early holidays with Jack were with family in Galway.   We  had the use of a deserted house near Maam Cross but did not have a car and our luggage had to be minimal.  So the paraphernalia now associated with babies was not a runner for Jack.   Which is how he came to be sleeping in a drawer on his first “holiday”.  He coped well with the intermittent lack of running water in that old house and was fascinated by the spiders and the open fire.  Due to broken fences, the house was always close to invasion by sheep, an excitement he loved.  The little stream that ran through the front “lawn” of that house was a source of intense interest to him as a dam-builder.

An early digestive problem had been resolved by then and there did not seem to be any particular angles arising from his “special” status.  When foreign holidays became possible, it never occurred to us that our freedom would be less than other parents and we were also very inclined to ramble by our natures.  We had no-one to compare Jack to.  Any youngish child would need to be carefully minded anyway.  His health has also been very good for decades, which was a great help,  though we learned to always bring antibiotics as they came in handy a few times.

So Jack had his first plane journey at age 4, when we went to Spain.   From then on, he became used to planes and the pre-9/11 airport routines were not as stressful.  On planes, he loves to study the menu and order his choices.  He also participates in finding the transport to the accommodation when we arrive and the sorting out of luggage and claiming spaces.   He is by nature a water-baby and those early outdoor pools in Spain, and later France, and even a strange camp in rural Czech Republic, were a joy for him, with slides, pool games, and usually an ice-cream break.

His uncle’s London house also provided an exciting holiday venue in his very early days, where he learned to love the roundabout in Covent Garden (not to mention the delights of the ice-cream there), the Science Museum, the boats on the Thames, the British Museum, the London Transport Museum and all the other buzzes provided by London in the 1990s, when it was a little less frenetic.

Soon after buying our first car, we tried out camping in Ireland.   An early favourite was the Nore Valley Camp in Bennettsbridge, Co. Kilkenny, which includes a farm, with animal feeding and petting each morning.  He took very much to the tent and the sleeping bags and the crazy golf there.  The excitement of close access to the petting animals proved too much for him once, in his early days, and he “borrowed” a rabbit and ran back to the tent with it.   While that campsite is “strict” and would be a disappointment for those who wish to drink, dance and sing in the early hours, the watchful stance of the owners is beneficial in our circumstances.

This “Kilkenny camping” is now an annual event.  We have been joined there for many years by  his close friend, John, and our presence is not very necessary when they are a pair.  They love the freedom, the fresh air, the trailer rides and breakfast al fresco beside the tent (or in the barn-with-a-view on rainy mornings).

Dingle is another favourite camping spot, and it also provides an opportunity to meet Fungie, an acquaintance renewed annually for many years.  The boatowners in Dingle were very kind to him and he often travelled free.

Dingle---the-Fungie-substituteThe camping experience in Ireland emboldened us to try something similar in the US and Canada and we did epic journeys there, for example travelling from the top of western Canada down to Malibu in the suburbs of Los Angeles.  Jack took it all in his stride, from the wild campsite in Port Hardy where animal skulls marked out the longterm pitches of regular clients (probably fishermen or loggers who came and went at intervals) to the camping site in Malibu Creek National where MASH was filmed long before we camped there.

We also did the conventional stuff, like a studio visit to Warner Brothers, the LA Tour of Celebrity Houses , presenting each other with fake Oscars outside the Kodak Cinema in Hollywood, walking  across the Golden Gate Bridge and,  when in Cape Cod, whale watching.   Boston’s Duck Tour was also a hit with all of us.

Jack, Evelyn and Martin-at Lake Louise, CanadaAs intrepid travellers, the three of us have also shared hairy moments.  A bear alert woke us one night in Yosemite, we overturned on a raft in the Czech Republic, a park bench was under serious consideration as a bed when we misread an Italian train timetable and had no connection at midnight, we lost our car in Siena for hours (a habit we also acquired in Dublin Airport until Jack copped on about taking a photo of the row and letter when we parked), torrential rains and winds have smashed our tents, and mosquitoes and other bugs have tortured us.  But we’ve made it this far.

Jack and ourselves loved our marathon Egyptian odyssey – six flights, a river Nile cruise, a tour of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, a week in Luxor with King Tut’s gaff just across the river from us, and up at dawn to visit the Valley of the Kings, the searing heat of Aswan and a tour of the famous High Dam built in the 1960s to control flooding on the Nile.

He became a connoisseur of aquariums, being very impressed by the one in San Francisco and adoring the Beluga whales in the Vancouver Aquarium.  There had been so many greatest hits, that the outstanding Genoa Aquarium was nearly a chink too wide.  Vancouver’s Stanley Island was the scene of his young “driving test” in a non-mechanically propelled vehicle in the playground, and the “Licence” he got was a source of great pride.

He has experienced the great art galleries, the Uffizi in Florence, the Prado and Reina Sofia in Madrid, Vatican Museums and Sistine and the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice and the other Guggenheim in New York City.  He pondered quizzically  The Kiss by Rodin in Paris and the Calder mobiles in the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and was so impressed by Jasper Johns that he bought a print of his flag for his bedroom, where it still hangs.  He was even in the Louvre and in Monet’s gardens before birth as we visited Paris less than three months before he was born.  Since being born, he’s made it back to Paris several times, and had the thrill of visiting Paris Disneyland when still young enough to be bowled over by it all.

The cultural wing of our travels has made him open to Dublin events in that line, too.  He even went to see Krapp’s Last Tape with us in the Gate, probably the youngest Beckett fan there and the one who laughed loudest at the banana skin incident.   As Michael Gambon played Krapp, but also Dumbledore in Harry Potter, Jack was thrilled to shake hands with him in the bar afterwards.

Back in Ireland, as we aged, we’ve got fonder of hotel breaks and Jack has learnt the “grammar” of booking into hotels, the layout of the facilities, is ever alert for in-room mini-bars and, in recent times, the availability of wifi.  As a natural keep-fit fanatic, he really appreciates hotel pools and gyms.  Though for many years we would supervise him in such situations, he is now semi-autonomous and would be far superior to either of us in terms of fitness and sport.   In hotel gyms, with an age policy, we used to have to be on hand to prove his age (though he might be another age at reception to get him sharing the same room as us!).

Having found an ideal place to stay in Abenga, in Italy, in recent years, we paid a number of return visits and Jack got totally familiar with the layout there.  In general, he picks up directions and routines very quickly and we probably underestimate his abilities in that line sometimes.

Because of our natural inclinations, travel was going to be a big part of the shared lives of the three of us.   But having seen how it has given Jack confidence and provided an informal education in timetabling, reading, problem-solving, confidence-building, and the successful pursuit of happiness, we would recommend it as a way of boosting the lives of those with special needs who are able for it.

Author Bio

Martin, Evelyn and Jack Conneely live in Castleknock, Dublin 15 (when they are not out and about taking in the best the world has to offer).