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27th Jan 2022

Crystal Swing’s Dervla calls for more supports for children with autism

Katy Brennan

“I feel nobody is listening.”

Crystal Swing singer Dervla Burke O’Connor has called for more supports for children with autism.

For the first time, she has opened up about having a severely autistic son and how she had to give up her singing career to care for him full time.

The Cork mum said she is “begging every day” for help but feels like no one is listening to her and her husband, Tim O’Connor, or other parents in similar circumstances.

In a heartbreaking interview with RedFM’s Niall Prendaville, she said:

“He is the light of our lives and we absolutely adore him, but life with Paul is very, very difficult.

“There are special schools, called units, which are attached to mainstream schools that cater for children with autism, but unfortunately Paul has gone past that now.

“What he will need going forward is a special school.

“At the moment myself and my husband are fighting a huge battle as parents to ensure that our son is getting the proper services that he needs.”

She went on to describe how she sometimes feels “imprisoned” in her own home.

“I’m finding it increasingly difficult to look after him because he is non-verbal and cannot communicate his needs to us and he has a lot of frustration so lashes out a lot, but it’s through no fault of his own.

“He’s broken screens, many televisions, pulled down curtain rails, he’s constantly on kitchen tables, countertops, it’s a miracle he’s not caused damaged to his brain from falling.

“All mirrors and glass have had to be taken down for his safety.

“He has no fear because he has no understanding, he sees the world through completely different eyes.”

She continued: “I feel nobody is listening. I’m begging on my knees every day for help, support, and services for my child.”

By speaking out, Dervla hopes she can highlight the struggles faced by the many other parents of children with autism.

“My child deserves an education. All of these children do, they deserve dignity, respect, it is a constitutional right.

“Even though Paul has very complex needs, he has intelligence inside of him, and I know a special school would be the key to unlocking it.”