A little extra

Published on 24/10/2019 by EFUF

So how do they make it work? Like everyone’s, mornings are hectic; “we tend to use the ‘divide and conquer’ tactic,” Aoife says, citing super-organisation as the key: school bags ready at the front door, uniforms and outfits laid out the night before. “I’ve learned that my children tend to go backwards in the morning and are easily distracted so at that time of day the less I expect from them the better. Team work makes the dream work.”

Like many parents, Aoife finds it challenging to spend quality time with all of her children every day, but she’s sensible about it. “I realise that it’s normal for siblings to have to share their parents,” she says, though things are easing a bit now that the baby is older. Aoife even says that adding a third child was easier than the first two. “I have trusted my own instincts as a mother more and felt like I knew the ropes well enough to let myself enjoy the experience and let go of the anxiety I had first time round.”

Of course the family’s challenges extend to Ciara’s condition, but Aoife has created a mantra of sorts that she often shares on social media alongside stories of Ciara’s life: this girl can and this girl will. “In my ignorance, when she was born I thought she wouldn’t be capable of doing all the things a typical child would do,” Aoife remembers. “Once I got to know her I could see the sparkle in her eye, and I decided very early on that she would have the same opportunity to learn and experience life as her siblings and peers, and that we as parents had a responsibility to ensure that.” Their family and support network have high expectations of Ciara. They are ready to find the right support and encouragement to deal with her learning disability, and will give her the time she needs to work things out. “She has flourished at mainstream nursery and will be starting at our local primary school in August. She has been skiing and horse riding, attends regular ballet, swimming, and ball sports classes, and she’s travelled a bit too. Not bad for a 5-year-old!”

Aoife seems to be actively tearing down some of the awkwardness that comes with parenting children with additional needs. “It’s all very well saying we should talk about these issues but if we are not opening those gates in the first place, people feel shy or feel like they may be acting intrusively by asking questions,” she says. “Another way of opening communication around additional needs is for parents to start conversations with their children. Explain that some people need lots of support, some find it difficult to speak, some can’t walk, but that they still have feelings and a quality of life just like everyone else. Take the fear away before it develops at all. Let them know it’s ok to be different, and it’s a positive thing to meet people from all walks of life. Children learn from their parents, so set the right example for them and teach them compassion.”

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