A skydive in 2019 for autism centre

The Shine Centre for Autism in Carrigaline is set to benefit from funds raised through a sky dive by Marguerite O’Mahony from Donoughmore, whose family is thankful for the support the centre has offered her niece, writes MARTINA O’DONOGHUE
A skydive in 2019 for autism centre
Marguerite O’Mahony from Donoughmore plans to jump out of an airplane this year for a cause very close to her heart, the Shine Centre for Autism in Carrigaline, which her four-year-old niece Madison Campion attends

FOR someone who insists that she is not a daredevil, she’s having more extreme adventures than the average woman!

Marguerite O’Mahony, of Donoughmore, plans to jump out of an airplane this year for a cause very close to her heart.

Marguerite is the doting aunt of four-year-old Madison Campion, who has diagnoses of autism, pica (an eating disorder that involves eating items that are not considered food such as hair, dirt, and paint chips) and ADHD, as well as being non-verbal.

Improving Madison’s life is the motivation for Marguerite to do a sky-dive on the first Saturday in March in Kilkenny with the Irish Sky Diving Club.

Madison, who lives on South Douglas Road, was 16 months old when she was first taken to the doctor, with her parents concerned she was non-verbal. However, she faced a minimum of two years to wait for a HSE diagnosis, so they took her privately to be assessed in Dungarvan. Incidentally, the HSE diagnosis finally came not long before Madison’s fourth birthday.

“She’s had no help or intervention whatsoever. She’s had just one speech and language class so far,” explains Marguerite.

Fortunately, Madison — who turns five this month — has been attending the Shine Centre for Autism in Carrigaline since August, 2017, a service which has been a godsend to the child and her family.

“Shine have been doing everything; they’ve had a huge impact on Madison’s life. In the beginning Kieran (from Shine) came up to their home and explained everything to them; went through paperwork with them. If it wasn’t for Shine they’d have no help at all”, explains Marguerite.

The Shine Centre is a voluntary organisation and registered charity established by the parents of children with autism in 2001. Since that time, Shine has worked with thousands of children and families affected by autism.

All the children who have passed through the doors of Shine have been given the chance to develop to their full potential. There is an emphasis on putting the child at the centre of every decision made and affording them the opportunity to grow and develop.

Marguerite, along with her brother Paul Cambridge and sister-in-law Yvonne Campion, has been reflecting on the little changes they’ve seen in Madison since she has been attending the centre.

“She’s still non-verbal but she’ll catch your hand and guide you to where she wants to go. She’d never have done that before”, says Marguerite.

The main thing Paul and Yvonne have noticed recently is that their daughter’s eye contact has improved. She has got better at looking into others’ eyes, even if she still doesn’t like it when people look at her. They also feel she has become much better at mixing with others and being around other children. Her general motor skills have improved and even though she still has a very long way to go with general everyday skills, she can now differentiate shapes and colours.

Currently, Shine is trying to help Madison transfer from a baby bottle to a toddler cup. It is a slow process but her parents know that with Shine’s help, she will get there.

In a note for this article, Paul and Yvonne say: “The staff of Shine have been the only ones who — from day one — have been there for us. From receiving advice, guidance, help filling in the mountains of paper work and forms — to even just being on the other end of the phone for us, we really don’t know where we would be today had it not been for Shine.

“We, as a family, are forever grateful for everything they do. They have made such a positive impact on our lives and on Madison’s.”

With a goal of €7,000, Marguerite plans to divide the money she raises between Shine and what she calls Madison’s Magical Garden. The latter involves re-designing the little girl’s garden to suit her needs.

“We’re going to try and build a shed out the back that can be an area for her to go to. We’ll take up the grass and put down artificial grass. At the moment you can’t let her out there at all because she has no sense of fear and no self-awareness. Because of her condition called Pica, she eats everything she sees. She eats muck. If there are paving slabs she’d stick her fingers through the joints and go through it. The shed would be a therapeutic room for her, to reduce her levels of anxiety; somewhere to relax in a neutral environment. She’d be safe there. It’s vital that it’s safe. There would be sensory equipment, mirrors, fibre optic lights on the floor and soft sponges. My husband, Richard (Madison’s Godfather) will insulate and plaster it.”

As it says on Marguerite’s Go Fund Me page: “This will change her life and reduce a lot of pressure and stress for her family as it will also stimulate her and help greatly with her under average motor skills.

“It will also, we hope, help keep her active at home which, in turn, will help with her bad sleeping patterns, which haven’t been good since she was a baby.”

But first Marguerite must undertake that skydive! And it won’t be the first time she has taken a literal leap of faith to support a charity. “Last year I did a bungee jump for the Guide Dogs and I raised €1,020 for that”, she says.

Is she quite sure she is not the adventurous type?

“Oh God no, not at all!” she insists. “With the bungee jump I was petrified; a nervous wreck.”

Would she ever do it again?

“No, no, it’s not something I’d go off and book into. I’m not a thrill-seeker. I wish I was!”

With an impending dive from 15,000 feet, when does she expect the nerves to kick in?

“They’re already after kicking in!” she laughs, as she recalls how she was sick to her stomach on the week of the bungee jump, and so is anticipating the nerves to intensify again closer to the skydive. We wish her the best of luck!

To donate see: www.gofundme.com/shine-centre-for-autism-and-madison

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