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15th Mar 2022

Crystal Swing’s Dervla says people still don’t “understand” autism as she calls for more supports

“If we died in the morning, where would Paul go?”

Crystal Swing’s Dervla Burke O’Connor has been praised for her honest description of autism on Claire Byrne Live.

Speaking on the show on Monday night, the mum-of-two discussed what life is like as she cares for her son Paul, who has severe autism.

Dervla said she feels that sometimes autism can be misunderstood by people, particularly because it differs for each individual.

“You’ve got the milder end of the spectrum where children and adults you know they have their own challenges and needs but they can go on to live pretty normal lives,” she said.

“Whereas, for a child like mine that is not the case. I think that a lot of people out there really don’t understand what autism really is all about.”

Dervla went on to discuss some of the challenges and difficulties the family face raising Paul, who is non-verbal and can find communication difficult – which often lead to him lashing out.

“He has a lot of behaviour issues. Socially he doesn’t mix with others, he doesn’t mix with other children. He has a little sister Hannah, and he just looks right through her like she isn’t there.”

Dervla previously revealed that she had quit her singing career to care for her child full time. She is now calling for better supports from the HSE for families like hers who have kids with autism.

“If we died in the morning where would Paul go? You cannot just hand him to anybody because he is a care. So families like us, we need peace of mind. We need a roadmap gong forward.”

Following the programme, viewers took to social media to thank Dervla for her eye-opening interview.

“Thank you to Dervla Burke O’Connor for speaking so passionately on #cblive tonight. It’s heartbreaking to see you and your family, and so many other families and all those with communication difficulties across Ireland face such hardship for something which is a basic right,” one person wrote.

“It’s absolutely sickening the support structures in place for families with children who have special needs. Parents shouldn’t have to fight for support and school places, this cannot be highlighted enough,” another said.