A YOUNG Cork boy has raised money as a surprise parting gift to his primary school, which he says helped him flourish over the past nine years.
Oscar Power, who suffered a stroke when he was just two years old, and lives with autism, dysphraxia and ADHD, said because his school helped him to develop, he now wants to help other children with special needs following behind him.
As the 12-year-old prepares to move from Glasheen Boys NS to Kinsale Community School, he has completed two walks to fund-raise for its new ASD unit. Oscar’s GoFundMe online fund-raising campaign had a goal of €500 and is now approaching the €2,000 mark.
His teachers say this is typical behaviour by the resilient and inclusive boy they’ve come to know and love over the past nine years and who they’ll miss dearly.
His mum Theresa, who teaches at the School of Medicine in UCC and who is a trained intensive care nurse, recalls Oscar’s stroke: “I remember thinking that he looked very vacant that day, and was very clumsy, dropping things and not caring. I also noticed a drooping on the left side of his face.”
An MRI scan in CUH showed that Oscar suffered a massive stroke which had affected the left side of his body and meant he couldn’t walk or talk for a period.
With the help and ongoing support of Enable Ireland and his family, he recovered well.
When it came to choosing a primary school for Oscar, there were some extra considerations for Theresa and her husband Dave, and she said that Glasheen felt ‘right’ from the start.
“They really looked at Oscar as an individual, as a person. And that didn’t change after he was diagnosed with autism when he was five, and then with ADHD when he was seven,” she said.
Oscar recently completed a 10km walk around the Old Head of Kinsale Loop, and Ballycotton cliff walk to raise money for the school..
On the GoFundMe page he wrote: “For the past nine years the special needs teachers have supported me with literally anything and everything, from education to personal and social skills, and most importantly to learn in a fun way!
“These initiatives have helped me develop physically, mentally, and enabled me to go to a mainstream school.”
Principal Michael Daly said the funds will go towards the sensory room in their new six-person ASD unit. Glasheen NS, which has 450 pupils, has had an ASD class since 2018, but they are now looking forward to opening their new building after Easter.
They have had a waiting list of around 80 or 90 for places in the unit over the past few years.
“We have parents ringing every week looking for a place but we just don’t have extra capacity. What I would like to say to parents though, is to be open-minded and not to feel that an ASD unit is the only option for their child,” said Michael.
“At the moment, it seems to be a ‘one size fits all’ recommendation —reports all recommend ASD Units, but that’s not necessarily the right answer.
“Just like no two kids are the same, no two kids with autism are the same.
“It’s not always fair for parents to be told that, or for kids in mainstream to be told that, when the places aren’t there. A unit is great but it’s not the only option.
“I would argue from my experience that mainstream is a viable option for some, with the right supports of course, and Oscar is a prime example of this.”
Oscar has a particular bond with the deputy principal and resource teacher, Sheila Clark.
He said: “All my teachers have been great, but I do have a favourite, Ms Clark. We’re really great friends, she is really nice, and we even share the same birthday!
“I have met with her every day for the past nine years, and she helps me with lots of things like writing and spelling, learning how to type, and other fine motor skills to help strengthen my hands.
“She even came with me to visit my new secondary school, Kinsale Community School.
“On Wednesdays she also has a group of us get together for a social skills session. We chat about all kinds of things, like what we did at the weekend, and we play board games too. She does so much with me, the list would be too long! I’ll miss her very much!”
Sheila described Oscar as “charmingly wonderful” and said his fund-raising was “typical of his nature”.
“I’m not one bit surprised by it. I’m going to miss him desperately,” she said.
Oscar, who some years back was honoured with a ‘Children’s Bravery’ prize at the National Stroke Awards organised by the Irish Heart Foundation, also singled out his sixth class teacher for praise: “Fretwork (woodwork), is one of my favourite things to do. We get to do our own designs and make pieces out of wood, and use a jigsaw which is great fun!
“It’s great because my 6th class teacher Mr. P. O’Neill does it with us. He’s really cool, and he has let us make our own play-list that we can listen to when we are doing art and fretwork.
“I also love doing the daily mile. We do lots of stretching, and when we are doing it, sometimes we mix it up by doing four minutes of walking, jogging, running, and hopping. This gave me the idea of doing a sponsored walk.
“We do lots of PE at school and I know how important it is to do exercise to keep you healthy. I often go to physiotherapy at Enable Ireland (because of my stroke), and do all kinds of stuff to help me get stronger.”
Theresa, Dave, son Oscar and daughters Scarlett, 2, and Imogen, 3, recently moved to Nohoval Cove from Ballyhea. One of the reasons behind the move was because Oscar loves to surf in nearby Garretstown and loves the ocean.
“From the very first day we met with Michael Daly, he welcomed us with open arms and Sheila Clark almost knows him better than us during school hours. I cannot say enough Glasheen Boys NS,” said Theresa.
Oscar added: “I have made great friends at Glasheen Boys, and everyone gets along well…mostly! I am looking forward to starting in Kinsale Community School, but I’ll really miss Glasheen Boys School. I know it’s the best school in Munster.”
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