Declan Twomey has Down syndrome, autism, and cystic fibrosis. The 11-year-old Lucan boy also has moderate to severe intellectual disability.
His sisters, Anna, 12, and Maebh, 9, adore him but they also adore when it’s just them with mum and dad on the fortnightly Saturdays when Declan’s at his Saturday Club.
The four-hour respite service on alternate Saturdays is provided by Stewarts Care in Palmerstown, one of the largest care provider organisations in the country for people with intellectual disability.
“Having access to respite is a lifeline for our two daughters. It gives me and my husband a chance to do stuff with them like going to play-parks and restaurants, which Declan can’t cope with because of the noise and crowds,” says Colette Twomey.
“The girls adore Declan but they really appreciate the time alone with us because he has such high care needs.”
Declan’s Saturday Club access used to be monthly until recently. The more frequent visits benefit him too.
During school holidays, Declan needs specialised childcare — “someone with special needs education who can manage his toileting needs” — and consequently can’t afford camps for the girls.
Colette says her daughters have higher levels of empathy and appreciate difference more than is usual for their age.
The girls are supported by an annual sibling workshop for brothers/sisters of children attending Stewarts Care.
It’s run by a clinical team with psychologist and social worker.
“They play games and talk in groups with other children about what it’s like to have a sibling with special needs.
Stewarts Care helps people of all ages with intellectual disability. Services include care, education, and social activities.
Almost 1,000 people are supported across residential, day-service, and respite services.
The organisation has been there for Declan from the start, providing clinical services and home support when he was a baby, and the family hopes it will be there for him right into the future.
As the new school year starts, Stewarts Care is looking forward to the opening of a state-of-the-art school building, catering for up to 160 children with intellectual disability.