This is my ChildVision family,” Senior Speech and Language Therapist Sinéad Fitzpatrick says with a smile.
And her role is nothing like you might expect. “In the morning I could be under a table in the preschool, working with a child on farm animal concepts that develop language through play. In an hour’s time I could be in primary school with an MDVI (multiply disabled and visually impaired) child looking at food consistencies and safe textures for them to eat.”
She pauses to explain how some children have disabilities that keep them from swallowing certain foods, and how textures are critically important. “By the afternoon, I could be with vocational students working on role plays and improvisations. I get to wear so many different hats, and I love that.”
“We have great opportunities to trial new programmes,” Sinéad describes, as entrée to two exciting developments to help her MDVI students. “Our adaptation of the Royal Irish Academy of Music’s (RIAM) speech and drama syllabus makes ChildVision the only organization in Ireland to utilise this programme. It builds what we call pragmatic language development – language and social skills – but students use their creativity and imagination at the same time.”
With a Masters from the University of Essex, Sinéad is also helping change how students are diagnosed. To a visually impaired child, the world can be a scary place. So they sometimes behave in ways that mimic autism. Yet autism’s gold standard diagnostic test, called ADOS, relies on visual materials and eye contact. “With special permission from ADOS publishers,” Sinéad explains “we are making adaptations for our children with little or no functional vision. This is a long term research project, and one I’m very passionate about .”