The mother of a five-year-old disabled boy who attends a specialist school in Dungannon set up to help those with cerebral palsy has welcomed a commitment from the Health Minister to look at ways of supporting the facility.
The Buddy Bear Trust, set up 25 years ago, does not receive any public money and is instead funded by parents and others who raise money to keep the school open.
Turst chair Brendan McConville said the school is in dire need of funding but added that Minister Poots’ words had offered hope to the parents of pupils.
Mr Poots said he could not make any promises about funding but is impressed by the commitment and work of those involved.
“I have been aware of the excellent work of the Buddy Bear Trust for a number of years and have a great deal of respect and admiration for their work,” he said.
“They have shown a great deal of commitment in the care and development of children with cerebral palsy.
“Although the school sits outside the current education system I do not think that we should become too focused on structures but rather that at all times we take a child–focused approach and concentrate on the needs of the children.
“To that end I am keen to investigate any avenues of potential support for the school and have asked my officials to consider any possible options.”
Claire Mimnagh’s son Daniel made vast progress after just six months at the school when he joined back in 2010, she said.
The mother-of-two described how her son, who has Angelman Syndrome, a rare condition with similar characteristics to cerebral palsy, was able to sit up for the first time since he was born.
“The conductor (teacher and therapist) Ilidko Veres has such a good rapport with Daniel,” said Claire. “She treats him liken a normal child and after a short time working with him she was able to really bring him out of himself. His grip has improved and he is now potty-trained - something health officials advised me he would never be capable of.”
The former Invest NI executive officer, who had to give up her job after Daniel was born, travels two hours each day to bring Daniel from their home in Fermanagh to Tyrone.
She has challenged the Department of Education in the past over funding for the school and said she was happy to hear the Health Minister acknowledge the great work which takes place there.